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Detective Dee: Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010)

Di renjie: Tong tian di guo (original title)
Trailer
2:11 | Trailer
An exiled detective is recruited to solve a series of mysterious deaths that threaten to delay the inauguration of Empress Wu.

Director:

Hark Tsui

Writers:

Chia-Lu Chang (screenplay), Kuo-Fu Chen | 1 more credit »
10 wins & 17 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Tony Ka Fai Leung ... Shatuo Zhong
Chao Deng ... Pei Donglai
Carina Lau ... Empress Wu Zetian
Bingbing Li ... Shangguan Jing'er (as Li Bing Bing)
Andy Lau ... Detective Dee
Jean-Michel Casanova Jean-Michel Casanova ... General Aspar (as Michel)
Sos Haroyan Sos Haroyan ... Assistant to Umayyad Ambassador
Jialin Zhao ... Interpreter
Yan Qin ... Jia Yi
Jinshan Liu Jinshan Liu ... Xue Yong
Aaron C. Shang Aaron C. Shang ... Shaizi (as Aaron Shang)
Deshun Wang Deshun Wang ... Xiazi Ling
Mickey He ... Prison Officer (as Shenming He)
Lu Yao Lu Yao ... Li Xiao
Yanming Jiang ... Undertaker
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Storyline

In 689 A.D., the Empress Wu Zetian is building a 66 m high statue of Buddha for her inauguration as the first empress of China under the objections and conspiracy of the other clans. When the engineer responsible for the construction mysteriously dies by spontaneous combustion, the superstitious workers are afraid since the man removed the good luck charms from the main pillar. There is an investigation of Pei Donglai and another investigator that also dies after withdrawing the amulets. Empress Wu assigns her loyal assistant Shangguan Jing'er to release the exiled Detective Dee from his imprisonment to investigate with Donglai and Jing'er the mystery of the deaths. They ride in a mystic and epic adventure to unravel the mystery. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and some sexuality. | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

China | Hong Kong

Language:

Mandarin | Spanish

Release Date:

30 September 2010 (China) See more »

Also Known As:

Di Renjie: Tong tian di guo See more »

Filming Locations:

Beijing, China See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$13,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$52,617, 4 September 2011

Gross USA:

$459,836

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$51,899,269
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Bingbing Li had no experience in martial arts. She also had to learn how to use various weapons for the role including a whip and a sword. See more »

Goofs

When the Crown Prince is killed by an arrow piercing his forehead, he has just won a board game similar to Go, except with blue & orange jewels instead of the traditional smooth stones. He starts picking up his pieces, then slams them down again shortly before he is shot. But as he crashes down onto the large board, a neat space has suddenly been cleared for the actor's head to impact safely - or possibly this was the result of a previous take. See more »

Quotes

Detective Dee: Shatuo... do you still remember Donkey Wang? Luoyang City Was built a thousand years ago. The old city subsided during the Han dynasty. A new city was built on top during the Sui dynasty. The old underground city became a black market. They call it the Phantom Bazaar.
See more »

Connections

Featured in At the Movies: Summer Special 2010/11 (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Diversifiedly solid but not impressive after all
12 October 2012 | by klusebaSee all my reviews

Di Renjie zhi tongtian diguo or Detective Dee and the mystery of the phantom flame is a Chinese fantasy movie that takes place during the Zhou Dynasty when the first and only Chinese empress Wu Zetian started her reign. The cold, cruel and somewhat megalomaniac woman that wants to rule on her own accord and who killed several potential enemies in the past is now menaced days before her crowning. After the mysterious death of two people during the construction of a giant Buddha statue in front of the emperor's residence, she asks the Chaplain, a sort of state preceptor who speaks through a magical deer, for help. He gives her the advice to recruit the banned Detective Dee who had openly accused the empress for having possibly killed her late husband and who was one of the leading persons in a growing revolution eight years ago. Even before Detective Dee can be contacted, a group of assassins tries to kill him and another prisoner but they ultimately fail. Intrigued by the strange murders and the will to make peace with his past, Detective Dee soon discovers that black magic seems to be the cause of the deaths. Accompanied by the empress' charming but mysterious attendant and an albinistic officer in the penal system, Detective Dee has to put the pieces of the puzzle together before the crowning of the empress takes place and soon discovers a well organized conspiracy with the goal to kill the empress.

This movie has a historic background that is though not developed in a profound way. The film rather focuses on fantastic elements around black magic, a few mild suspension moments and a couple of artistic action choreographies done by some of the best experts of several outstanding Hongkong action movies of the late eighties and early nineties. This film though wastes a little bit of potential on here as it turns out to be too diversified to truly convince in any of the genres it touches and as it lacks of a few more developed cultural and historical bits and pieces that would make the final result more authentic.

Apart of the action choreographies, a true highlight are definitely the buildings, costumes and masquerades in the movie that were created in a very precise and professional way as it often happens to be in contemporary Chinese movies. On the other side, the special effects are less impressive and often to artificially flavoured so that they destroy the movie's certain kind of magic a few times. That's where Hollywood is still slightly ahead of modern Asian cinema.

While the story of this movie definitely has a few good points and a couple of small twists as well, there are still some negative factors. One never really gets to know why the two persons in the beginning of the movie really had to die instead of killing the empress in an unexpected way during her crowning. The movie also has a few anachronisms such as way too modern ships in the harbour and the diplomat in the beginning of the film whose identity and role remains strangely unresolved. These flaws are pardonable if you take this movie as a fictional film only.

In the end, you get an entertaining fantasy movie with a solidly suspenseful story, well done choreographies and stunning costumes. The movie though has no truly innovating elements, surprising moments or touching scenes. It has without a doubt a certain kind of magic after all but it is sometimes too professionally done to touch the people. This movie is rather ordinary in comparison to what the gifted director Tsui Hark has done in the past but it's still one of the more entertaining Asian movies from 2010. After all, I guess I would only recommend this film to long time fans of Asian cinema as well as of stunning costumes and artistic choreographies. I would go for a loan instead of an immediate purchase as the film is surely entertaining but nothing outstanding enough to be a worthy addition to a film collection of an Asian cinema maniac.


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