Although it lacks the historical aura of classic Chinese wuxia backdrops, James Chiu's post-"Avatar" production design is memorably imaginative.
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While there's a casual dissonance to each twist in its winding plot that results in a disconnected and emotionally vapid experience, Detective Dee unquestionably achieves the escapism it intends.
Magnificent and cheesy, the latest and most proudly absurd of Chinese historical spectaculars, Detective Dee is a cinematic comic book for people who are sick of the mode.
An inventive marriage of ancient China and Agatha Christie, Detective Dee and the Mystery of Phantom Flame is a lavishly overwrought historical whodunit.
As the Sherlock Holmes of the second Zhou Dynasty, Lau is so effortlessly appealing that he manages to anchor the fatigue-heavy proceedings, even when his character has to outrun both the rays of the sun - don't ask - and a collapsing statue while crawling over and under a pack of stampeding horses. Now that's star power.
A historical epic with elements of wu xia, supernatural thrillers, and drawing-room murder mysteries.
The movie is not just spectacle; it's got a tender, ultimately tragic love story and enough deadly political scheming to fill a Gaddafi playbook. Indeed, in its narrative cunning, luscious production design and martial-arts balletics, Detective Dee is up there with the first great kung-fu art film, King Hu's 1969 "A Touch of Zen." We'd call it "Crouching Tiger, Freakin' Masterpiece."
Hark's new film is a consummately bizarre crowd-pleaser that throws everything at the viewer from makeshift plastic surgery by acupuncture to death by spontaneous combustion.
I've seen Detective Dee twice now, and I still don't think I've taken the full measure of the visual nuttiness, and lushness, Tsui has packed in there.