Saturday, February 21, 2015

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010)

This is an overlong but pretty fun movie.  It's based on Di Renjie, a real life official of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. He seems to have been quite the person.  The movie was popular enough to warrant a sequel/prequel, which is also on Netflix and I'll watch it sooner or later.  It's even longer than this one.  Good thing I didn't have to watch it all at once.  It also tries to be epic, like most of Tsui Hark's movies, so that wasn't very surprising.  It really didn't need to be, since it was well cast and the effects and action scenes are well done.  Just stuff we've all seen before, made safer by green screen.

Someone is murdering high ranking officials of the Empress Wu Zetian.  They keep bursting into flame from the inside out.  She's wasting an enormous amount of money building a giant statue of Buddha in front of her palace (this is never a plot point, just an observation of mine).  She is convinced to let Dee out of prison, despite the fact he led a revolt against her eight years ago and wants him to find out who is responsible for the murders.  This takes him through several plot twists and complications, all with old friends and enemies.  Palace intrigue makes it hard to figure out who to trust as well.

Like I said, it's a good movie, would have been better at under two hours and with more "real" action than green screen jumps and wire work.  But they did use a lot of practical effects, which was really nice to see.  Sammo Hung directed the action sequences, so you know they at least will look good.

It'll be interesting to see the next movie.

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