Adam Cook’s review:
Consistently silly, often sumptuous and with spectacular action; Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame was a surprising joy from beginning to end. It has been a good while since I really enjoyed a big martial arts spectacle and even longer since I’ve liked a Tsui Hark movie (admittedly I haven’t been following his recent output with any great regularity) so it was pleasing to see that this was a return to form.
Detective Dee is a Chinese Sherlock Holmes with extra ass-kicking abilities, and like Mr. Holmes, DD solves incredibly convoluted and pointlessly twisting mysteries. In truth I lost interest in the plot involving spontaneous combustion and a coronation, instead it is far more fun just going along for the ride. And what a ride it is! Each action sequence is more preposterous than the last (one fight even involving a gang of angry deer) but they are all brilliantly choreographed and shot with a keen sense of humour and invention. Andy Lau is very good as the titular detective and whilst the faults outweigh the positives it never seemed to impact on my enjoyment. Sure, there is an over-reliance on CGI which is inconsistent, the story is too long with a plot that tries too hard, but when a film can entertain me for two hours like this then it must be doing something right.
And yes, I did laugh at the name Donkey Wang.