x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Detective Dee lost in translation

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame is an extravagently ambitious affair featuring stunning martial arts sequences.

Director: Tsui Hark 

Starring: Andy Lau, Carina Lau, Tony Leung

Set in AD687 this tale of crumbling empires, strange deaths and myths is an extravagantly ambitious affair featuring stunning martial arts sequences. The director, Tsui Hark, was responsible for the Once Upon a Time in China series in the 1990s, but here he seems to suffer from the same problem that befalls many others who try to make a movie a year: all the ingredients have been thrown together without sufficient thought as to whether it will actually create a fabulous dish.

So, while there are moments, characters and scenes to amaze, Detective Dee doesn't translate from comic book to movie in a completely satisfactory manner.

A series of unexplained deaths just before the inauguration of the first female ruler of the land convinces Empress Wu (Carina Lau) to release Detective Dee (Andy Lau) from prison, where he has served eight years for treason, in the hope that he will solve the crimes. The similarities between Detective Dee and Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes go beyond the fact that they are both big-budget films with spectacular effects where plot is a hindrance and enjoyment depends on how enjoyable one finds the glossy action sequences. Lau is excellent as the detective and there are nice turns from Teddy Robin, Tony Leung and Richard Ng.

Unfortunately, though, the identity of the culprit is telegraphed and the CGI isn't of a consistently high standard. Not enough is made of the period setting either, but rewards are available for those willing to go along with Detective Dee's inimitable flow.

The festival's closing film. There is also a public screening on October 23, Marina Mall Cinestar 4, 4.45pm