|'Martial Arts Adventure crossed with a Sherlock Holmes-esque Mystery'|
Martial Arts Adventure crossed with a Sherlock Holmes-esque Mystery should be a recipe for success similar in potency to the time that person suggested to Mr. Lucas he should do a 'space opera'. Yet, somehow, director Hark Tsui comes dangerously close to making Detective Dee: Mystery Of The Phantom Flame an overacted, tiresome slog, with enough diversions to leave you pondering the meaning of life rather than the existence of a rogue piece of instantly flammable MacGuffin.
At one hundred and nineteen minutes, Detective Dee is too long by a good half hour or so, pushing the boundaries of how far an audience will go with a throwaway tale. Then the idiosyncrasies start to creep in too. There's a magical talking deer for one, poorly rendered in CGI, quickly followed by some odd directing choices for Tsui; all circle fades and odd cuts. Its distracting and, occasionally, twee.
Which is a shame, because when Dee is good it makes it to the level which its premise suggests it might attain. An attack on a house from a bunch of assassins with wall punching arrows is exciting action cinema writ-large, which Tsui makes the most of, whilst a trip to a River Styx-like underworld shows off the best of the set design which is occasionally pleasantly startling.
Andy Lau - always watchable - as Dee looks like he was cultivating a character which he could have held on to, although there's nothing to suggest a sequel is imminent. Something of a shame, given the interesting conclusion Tsui eventually manufactures.
'It's memorable in its moments of weirdness and fun action, but the mystery isn't actually that great and the potentially interesting characters are under-used.' - Film Forager, 3.5/5