Saturday, November 27, 2010

Detective Dee And The Phantom Flame (2010)

Tsui Hark makes it two in a row with this HUGE scale epic concerning the sudden death (by seeming spontaneous combustion) of several high officials in the Chinese court. Coming days before the Empress is officially crowned, there is little anyone can do other than turn to the disgraced Detective Dee, who was tossed into prison because he opposed the Empress's ascension. Stuck in the middle of several power plays and helped by aides who seem to have their own agenda Dee must get to the bottom of things before any more deaths occur.

A grand spectacle of an amazing sort, this is a story that really knocked my socks off. Set in a China of over a thousand years ago and filled with wonders that push this firmly into the realm of fantasy, this is the sort of film that most Hollywood blockbusters wish they could be. It's nothing deep, simply great entertainment. Sure it's largely CGI, but it's done in such a way that you accept it in a way that you never do with movies like Transformers.

The mystery at the heart of the film isn't the most complex around; odds are you'll be able to figure out what's going on. On the other hand it's really engaging thanks to the window dressing of ancient China and the desire to know why people are bursting into an all consuming flame.

Helping suck us in is the ever wonderful Andy Lau as Dee. Lau makes his character a man of action. He's a man of action of both the physical and mental sort. Watch the set up seduction scene right after Dee is released from jail. As Dee and his minder almost have sex they are attacked. How Dee deals with trying to stay alive and capture the assassins is a great deal of fun.

Actually all of the action sequences and set pieces are fun, from the initial murder onward to the final confrontation between the detective and villain of the piece. I don't think there is a clunker in the lot. It's just one great action sequence after another.

I'm really impressed by Tsui Hark. This is the best action film that he's turned out in a long time. Actually after the wonderful comedy All About Women Tsui Hark continues his winning ways. The fact that Hark has made two great films in a row may sound less then amazing, but when you consider that Hark's track record has been clunky of late (with clinkers like Missing, Seven Swords, Zu Warriors) it's been hard to look forward to his films. However between this and his last film I've come back around to thinking he's an important director.

Definitely worth trying to search out. Currently available as an import DVD, this is one to look for. Actually if this film manages to get a theatrical release in the US or near you make an effort to see it because there are some great wide screen images.

No comments:

Post a Comment