DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME (Vivendi, 2010) D: Tsui Hark, w/ Andy Lau, Carina Lau. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NN Rating: NNN
In history, Di Renjie (630-700) was a magistrate and adviser to China's first and only female empress, Wu Zetian (624-705). In fiction, he's Detective Dee, a sleuth in the classic mould.
As the empress's coronation nears, senior officials begin dying in a way that looks like magic. Dee hunts for suspects, dogged by a whip-wielding lady-in-waiting and a stern young detective. Either one could be involved in the killings, and the empress herself could be the killer or the target.
The case takes them through lavish sets and imaginative action set-pieces, highlighted by a bizarre battle and chase through a secret city, a wirework extravaganza inside a 10-storey statue of the Buddha and an eerie attack by deer. Director Tsui Hark (Once Upon A Time In China) handles the action and emotional moments with his usual exuberance.
The cast, headed by Hong Kong stars Andy Lau (Dee) and Carina Lau (the empress) bring credible intensity to their roles.
A standout extra looks at the design of that enormous statue.
EXTRAS Making-of, characters, action and production design docs. Mandarin, English audio. English, French subtitles.