Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

2011, PG-13, 123 min. Directed by Tsui Hark. Starring Andy Lau, Li Bingbing, Carina Lau, Deng Chao, Tony Leung Ka-Fai.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 30, 2011

As bodies begin to spontaneously combust prior to the coronation of Empress Wu (Carina Lau), the soon-to-be-ruler calls in Detective Dee (Andy Lau) to get to the bottom of the mystery. Never mind that she had him incarcerated eight years ago for criticizing her. Dee is a sleuthing mastermind on the order of a Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie, and thus the familiar form of the whodunit merges with this Tang Dynasty (circa AD689) period piece and action tale. A historical figure who has been popularized over time, Dee uses his wits as well as science to solve cases. Nefarious intrigue abounds in this mystery, and genre master Tsui Hark makes great use of computerized composites, classic wirework, and, of course, those unforgettable spontaneous combustions. The martial arts sequences are staged by the master, Sammo Hung. Creative spectacle, humor, and suspense drive the film, and we can only hope that Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame kicks off a new mystery franchise.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Tsui Hark Films
Flying Swords of Dragon Gate
There's just too much everything in this chop-socky actioner by Tsui Hark.

Marc Savlov, Sept. 14, 2012

Double Team
Absolute madness. The American debut of Hong Kong wunderkind (and UT alumnus) Hark is a mesmerizing tour de force that runs helter skelter through the ...

Marc Savlov, April 11, 1997

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Joy Ride
Raunchy road trip goes all the way to China for filthy fun

July 7, 2023

All That Breathes
The struggle by three men to save the endangered black kite

March 31, 2023


Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, Tsui Hark, Andy Lau, Li Bingbing, Carina Lau, Deng Chao, Tony Leung Ka-Fai

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle