Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2011) - Rotten Tomatoes

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame2011

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2011)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame Photos

Movie Info

A period epic from genre master Tsui Hark, Detective Dee is an action-packed, visually breathtaking Sherlock Holmes-style mystery starring some of China's top acting talent. Stunningly choreographed by master Sammo Hung, this intricately plotted whodunit is set in an exquisitely realized steampunk version of ancient China. On the eve of her coronation as Empress (Carina Lau), China's most powerful woman is haunted by a chilling murder mystery: seven men under her command have burst into flames, leaving behind only black ash and skeletal bones. Recognizing this threat to her power, she turns to the infamous Dee Renjie (Andy Lau): a man whose unparalleled wisdom is matched only by his martial arts skills. As he battles a series of bizarre dangers, he unveils a chilling truth that places his life, and the future of an entire dynasty, in peril. -- (C) Indomina

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Andy Lau
as Detective Dee (Di Renjie)
Carina Lau
as Wu Zetian (The Empress)
Bingbing Li
as Shangguan Jing'er
Tony Leung Ka Fai
as Shatuo Zhong
Chao Deng
as Pei Donglai
Jean-Michel Casanova
as General Aspar
Teddy Robin Kwan
as Wang Lu (after face-lift)
Richard Ng
as Wang Lu (before face-lift)
Yao Lu
as Li Xiao (The Duke)
Jinshan Liu
as Xue Yong (Crime Inspector)
as Umayyad Ambassador
Sos Haroyan
as Asst. to Umayyad Ambassador
Zhao Jialin
as Interpreter
Qin Yan
as Jia Yi (Construction Inspector)
Wang Deshun
as Xiazi Ling (Blind Prisoner)
He Shenming
as Prison Officer
Jiang Yanming
as Undertaker
Huang Yonggang
as Zhang Xun
Chen Xiao
as Lu Li
Foo Liz Veronica
as Wife of Jia Yi
Veronica Faye Foo
as Wife of Jia Yi
Xu Nan
as Chamberlain
Chai Jin
as Qiu Shenji
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Critic Reviews for Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

All Critics (55) | Top Critics (32)

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame is vintage Tsui Hark, filled with virtuoso aerial fight sequences and soaring performances by glamorous veterans Carina Lau, Andy Lau, and Tony Leung Ka-fai.

August 27, 2019 | Full Review…

Detective Dee brings back the excitement of great pop cinema that drew cinephiles to Hong Kong in the first place.

March 5, 2018 | Full Review…

The film's visual style is at times so dense it simply overwhelms (ditto the plot).

October 9, 2011 | Full Review…

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.

September 29, 2011 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…

It is a peculiar conflation of history -- there really was an Empress Wu -- and pure cinematic fantasy.

September 29, 2011 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

By the end, with the running time pushing past the two-hour mark, it's reasonable to ask: Just who are these people?

September 26, 2011 | Rating: 2.5/4

Audience Reviews for Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

A wonderful martial arts adventure that keeps a fun and engaging pace. Detective Dee is released from prison in order to help solve a series of spontaneous combustions. He's pretty much the Chinese Sherlock Holmes, but the film does mix fantasy elements as well. Detective Dee is joined by a series of interesting sidekicks, such as the albino member of the supreme court, Pei, and Jing'er a delegate of the Empress. The film has a fantastic ability to conflict characters with their own actions, showing a distinct line between responsibility and choice. The sets and landscapes were breathtaking at times, especially the gigantic statue of Buddha. The film does it all with great adventure sequences, and even has an impressive fight with some CGI deer.

Luke Baldock
Luke Baldock

Super Reviewer


Viewing Detective Dee I often felt a stranger in a strange land. The sensibilities of the film seemed as foreign as the language - all the talk of honor and serving the empire... while each character (and believe me, there are many) has their own and seemingly changeable beliefs on how to do so. This flexible playing field could make for some interesting Byzantine politics, but somehow the film never got under my skin, making me care who was what. Perhaps it was the language barrier - having to read subtitles while watching all the beautiful sets and then missing parts of the action as the subtitles rolled by. "Wait a minute - who is this guy... isn't he.... No, he's some other guy" happened way too often - and perhaps this is just my inability to keep up with the twists and turns while trying to read the badly translated dialog (or at least I hope it was just a bad translation and not fer real cheesy dialog). Anyhow, there are lots of nice sets and cool costumes on display, along with acrobatic foo reminiscent of Crouching Tiger - though here the jumps and such seemed too much CG. I also have a distaste for films that start out with a long written narrative that tries to put you into the time and place (except for the first Star Wars film) - I dunno, it just seems like the film should let the viewers draw their own conclusions as far as the where and when of a piece - but I guess, given the gravitas of the narrative conclusion, that the Chinese take this story seriously (evidently there was actually an Empress Wu), and perhaps I'm missing something here as well. On a final note of disquieting strangeness for me - it is mentioned several times that the towering statue to Budha being erected for the Empress' coronation was 60 yards tall - ok, half a football field - 180 feet, or 18 stories tall putting it another way - somehow that just didn't seem right as this sucker towers over everything. Again, putting a definite number on something where there didn't have to be one - just say the sucker was huge and let's leave it at that.... And once again I don't know why this bugged me - but somehow is part and parcel of my entire feeling of disconnect and bewilderment with the film.

paul sandberg
paul sandberg

Super Reviewer


Chinese version of Sherlock Holmes + Men In Black + some genuinely Chinese fantasy and campiness. And again, I just love Andy Lau.

Letitia Lew
Letitia Lew

Super Reviewer

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