DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME blu-ray review

Hong Kong Region A blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.35:1

Cantonese: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (original)

Mandarin: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Mandarin: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (dub)

Subtitles: English, Mandarin (traditional), Mandarin (simplified)

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 9

VIDEO QUALITY: 9.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 9.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 6

 

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame is the best mainstream Hong Kong film of 2010. I didn’t think it would be as good as my other favorite Hong Kong film of 2010 – Gallants – but it is. Tsui Hark has gone back to what he does best – making extremely creative, fantasy, period-piece action films. After setting the bar for Chinese action movies with Zu Warriors From the Magic Mountain, Once Upon a Time in China 1 & 2, and The Blade, he has added another great film to his resume. Furthermore, he made this movie for something like 13 million dollars when this film looks like it cost 80 million dollars. Tsui Hark is creativity on tap – he knows how to spend his budget!

Detective Dee is a mystery movie so it’s best not to talk about the story, but let me say this – the problem with most Hong Kong mainstream action movies is that they forget to hire a good writer. I don’t think I can take another screenplay of “whoever finds the Golden Dragon Lotus martial arts ancient manual, that person will become the most powerful fighter in the world and will rule forever..different martial arts schools fighting each other to gain respect…etc.” It may be traditional in Hong Kong cinema, but enough is enough – the Shaw Bros. films went a bit overboard with this. It’s called overkill. So it is such a relief to get a Chinese action movie with a good story such as Crouching Tiger, Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Kung Fu Hustle, Ip Man, Gallants, and now Detective Dee. Tsui Hark is a smart man – he got a good screenwriter. Detective Dee is a totally entertaining, engrossing mystery movie that moves at such a graceful pace. The non-action scenes are just as intense as the action scenes. There is not one boring scene in this film. The camerawork, cinematography, costumes, sets, editing, acting, and story are all integrated together as a perfect mystery film. People have called this an Agatha Christie-type film. Maybe so, but I was thinking more along the lines of Young Sherlock Holmes (the only good Sherlock Holmes movie) mixed with Ridley Scott’s Legend. Tsui Hark is an amazing filmmaker. Dee may be considered a mainstream film, but this film is much more than that – it’s totally unique.

All the actors in this film are bad-ass as well. Andy Lau has gotten better and better as he ages. He is so believable as Detective Dee – I didn’t see him as an actor – he really was his character. Carina Lau was powerful as the emperor (she’s aged…but in a good way). And Bingbing Li was really impressive – showing an intensity and acting range that I hadn’t expected (certainly didn’t see it in The Forbidden Kingdom). The actor playing the albino was really good as well. All three of these actors have some crazy weaponry in this film. I don’t want to give it away though.

Detective Dee is the first Hong Kong movie I’ve ever seen in which I would want to see sequels. I’ve never craved franchises when watching Chinese movies, so this was the first time I ever had that feeling that I want more – Andy Lau should do one Detective Dee movie per year. His character is so interesting and entertaining, I want to see Tsui Hark do more of these.

The Hong Kong Region A blu-ray video and audio quality is almost perfect. What else is there to say? It’s a great blu-ray. And the English subtitles were excellent! The only extras are a 1080p English-subtitled trailer and teaser, as well as 4 short making ofs (non-subtitled).

Detective Dee is an original, totally entertaining mystery film. I usually don’t like buying mystery films, because they aren’t that exciting the second time around, but this movie is so visually entertaining, it’s totally rewatchable.

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