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(aka "Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame" or "Di Renjie" or "Di Renjie zhi tongtian diguo")


directed by Tsui Hark
China/Hong Kong 2010


All hell breaks loose as the coronation of the first female emperor Empress Wu (Carina Lau, 2046) nears, with ruling clans and founding officials plotting revolts and important court officials spontaneously bursting into flames. The Empress is advised by the Imperial Chaplain's Magic Deer to bring Detective Dee (Andy Lau, INFERNAL AFFAIRS) - exiled for treason eight years prior - back to the palace to investigate the mystery of the "Phantom Flame" before her coronation. He is assisted by the Empress' aid Commissioner Jing'er (Bingbing Li, 1911) and forensic investigator Pei (Chao Deng, ASSEMBLY) - whose superior Master Xue (Jinshan Liu, LOVE IN SPACE) was one of the victims of the "Phantom Flame" - neither of whom fully trust Dee. Also assisting Dee is Shatuo (Tony Leung Ka Fai, THE LOVER), supervisor of the Buddha statue being erected for the Empress' coronation - also a suspect - who was pardoned for treason for helping Dee years before. Numerous attempts are made on Dee's life by assassins who would rather burn themselves alive than be caught, and officials like Li Xiao (Lu Yao, ETERNAL BELOVED) are trying to tempt Dee into joining their planned revolts. The discovery of phosphorus on and in the victims burnt remains and evidence that suggests that the fires started internally lead Dee, Jing'er, and Pei to "The Phantom Bazaar" in an underground city in search of fire beetles and a frightening encounter with something that may or may not be the Imperial Chaplain out to silence the mysterious Dr. Wang (Richard Ng [ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA AND AMERICA] and Teddy Robin Kwan [TWIN DRAGONS]). Soon all clues point to the Infinity Monastery, which could prove scandalous for the Empress (especially when some of her enemies start falling victim to the "Phantom Flame").

Indomina Releasing's cover quotes New York Magainze's blurb "CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON meets SHERLOCK HOLMES, only a lot more fun" and that's actually not much of an overstatement. Much more elaborate and sprawling than BLOOD RAIN - a similarly-themed South Korean period thriller with a Sherlock Holmesian detective character - but neither the understated humor nor the lengthy and spectacular action set-pieces (choreographed by Sammo Hung, EASTERN CONDORS) feel like a desecration of the material as they do in the recent Holmes "adaptation" - and, from the looks of the trailer, it sequel - although I'm not too familiar with the historial persona of Di Renjie or Robert Van Gulik's "Judge Dee" novels. The mystery never takes a back seat to the visuals. Lau's Dee commands the screen and the direction of the investigation, but Li's Jing'er and Deng's Pei are given shining moments outside of the fight scenes (Carina Lau is absent from much of the first hour; but when she returns, her Empress could be likened to the beguiling "the woman" to Dee's Holmes and more than just the clothes horse despite the number of looks she models throughout). The CGI and digital matte paintings are not always convincing, but the detail that went into what they are rendering is often impressive (the interior of the Buddha statue and the Infinity Monastery are triumphs of set design and digital effects). The only weakness is the lack of character development for Dee (he is a screenwriting textbook-perfect dimensional character, but lacks the eccentricities and idiosyncrasies of a Holmes-esque detective). The more irksome aspect is the contrast of such simple mystery novel type ruses as ventriloquism and multiple identities and the more fantastical wire work, projectiles, and futuristic mechanical/robotic seemingly-sentient weapons (as well as the flashy way just about everyone in the film dismounts from their horses).

Eric Cotenas


Theatrical Release: 2 September 2011 (USA)

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DVD Review: Indomina Releasing/Vivendi Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:




Indomina Releasing/Vivendi Entertainment

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 2:03:12

2.34:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.46 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1; English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles English, French, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Indomina Releasing/Vivendi Entertainment

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.34:1

Edition Details:
• The Making of Detective Dee (4:3; 4:06)
• Creating the Characters (4:3; 5:17)
• Weapons, Stunts and Action (4:3; 3:50)
• The World of Dee (4:3; 5:14)
• Cast Gallery
• Behind the Scenes Gallery
• Poster Gallery
• International Trailer (4:3; 2:25)
• QR code for exclusive extras

DVD Release Date: 13 December 2011

Chapters 16



Indomina's dual-layer, progressive, anamorphic transfer features some edge enhancement and detail is not always impressive (Indomina has also released Blu-ray [HERE]). The Mandarin 5.1 audio option is definitely the track of choice. The English stereo dub is technically fine but aesthetically insulting to the ears (sample it during the "Magic Deer" scene); although it is interesting that a line on the English track is heard as "We shall see" but reads "Cut the crap" on the subtitle track. The extras are all typical EPK clips (a QR code on the disc face accesses additional extras for smart phone users, a separate QR code on the slipcase only accesses the trailer.)

  - Eric Cotenas


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:




Indomina Releasing/Vivendi Entertainment

Region 1 - NTSC



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