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Tsui Hark’s “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame” Lands U.S. Distrib

Tsui Hark's "Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame" Lands U.S. Distrib

Thompson on Hollywood

One of the best films I saw in Venice, Hong Kong action maestro Tsui Hark’s Detective Dee and The Mystery of the Phantom Flame, finally landed a U.S. release from new distributor Indomina Releasing, which has been on a buying spree lately and coughed up nearly $500,000, reports Film Business Asia, to acquire the rip-roaring action epic, which was a big hit in China (trailer below).

Here’s what I wrote in Venice:

Tsui’s Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame is an effective Hong Kong epic adventure jammed with extravagant VFX and starring high cheek-boned Andy Lau as the canny fearless incorruptible policeman of the title. He’s working for two powerful women, the power-hungry would-be first empress in China (Carina Lau), and her lieutenant (Bingbing Li, pictured), who is sent to aid the detective (and spy on him) in a toxic environment where many oppose the empress and nobody trusts anyone. Dee is trying to figure out why a series of people keep spontaneously bursting into flame—and keep the Empress Wu alive until her coronation. It’s Tsui’s homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Hong Kong-style. It seems that as the West’s film industries implode, Asia is where the action—and the money—is.


Red carpet at Venice:

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Tsui’s overdue for a comeback Stateside, and the vet cast and the source material (better known over here as “Judge Dee”) will hopefully bring out the faithful to see it in theatres. (I was bummed that “Seven Swords” bypassed theatrical here, forcing me to watch it on DVD.)

Anne Thompson

I added the actresses. Empress Wu is Carina Lau and her lieutenant is Bingbing Li.


I’m curious to see this, but it shouts out “Early ’90s Wire Fu!” to me, reminiscent of such earlier Hark productions as SWORDSMAN II, THE EAST IS RED, and THE MAGIC CRANE. That was great back then, but Hark’s fans would like something different today.

(P.S. Who’s the actress with the great legs? I wish both actresses had been identified.)

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