Metascore
75

Generally favorable reviews - based on 23 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 23
  2. Negative: 0 out of 23
  1. 100
    Detective Dee is the action flick of the year, a two-hour epic that blows the "Pirates of the Caribbean" to the Bermuda Triangle.
  2. Reviewed by: John Anderson
    Sep 1, 2011
    100
    The pulp-fictional hero is inhabited by the charismatic Andy Lau who, together with Chinese stars Bingbing Li, Ms. Lau and Tony Leung Ka-fai, makes Detective Dee the most purely entertaining film of our vanishing summer.
  3. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Sep 1, 2011
    100
    The movie is not just spectacle; it's got a tender, ultimately tragic love story and enough deadly political scheming to fill a Gaddafi playbook. Indeed, in its narrative cunning, luscious production design and martial-arts balletics, Detective Dee is up there with the first great kung-fu art film, King Hu's 1969 "A Touch of Zen." We'd call it "Crouching Tiger, Freakin' Masterpiece."
  4. Reviewed by: Kevin Thomas
    Sep 2, 2011
    90
    It has opulent, stylized settings of elegance, grandeur and scope, flawless special effects, and awesome martial arts combat staged by the master, Sammo Hung. Yet bravura spectacle never overwhelms either the plot or the key characters. Chang Chia-lu's intricate script bristles with wit and suspense; the film from start to finish is a terrific entertainment.
  5. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Sep 21, 2011
    88
    On the basis of its scale, energy and magical events, this is the Hong Kong equivalent of a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster. But it transcends them with the stylization of the costumes, the panoply of the folklore, the richness of the setting, and the fact that none of the characters (allegedly) have superpowers.
  6. Reviewed by: Stephanie Zacharek
    Sep 1, 2011
    85
    I've seen Detective Dee twice now, and I still don't think I've taken the full measure of the visual nuttiness, and lushness, Tsui has packed in there.
  7. Reviewed by: Ben Sachs
    Sep 22, 2011
    80
    Andy Lau (Infernal Affairs) gives a charismatic lead performance as Dee, a historical figure who became a folk hero, but the real attraction is Tsui's giddy imagination.
  8. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Sep 1, 2011
    80
    Witty but not campy, grand without being unduly somber, it is a crazy, almost-coherent riot of intrigue, color and kineticism anchored by the charisma of its cast.
  9. Reviewed by: J. Hoberman
    Aug 30, 2011
    80
    Magnificent and cheesy, the latest and most proudly absurd of Chinese historical spectaculars, Detective Dee is a cinematic comic book for people who are sick of the mode.
  10. Reviewed by: M. E. Russell
    Oct 13, 2011
    75
    In their best moments, Hark's action movies have a what-did-I-just-see giddiness, as if their choreography were springing straight from a cartoon id. Though I could have done without much of the film's CGI-heavy fakery, "Detective Dee" finds that giddiness more than a few times.
  11. Reviewed by: Noel Murray
    Aug 31, 2011
    75
    A historical epic with elements of wu xia, supernatural thrillers, and drawing-room murder mysteries.
  12. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Aug 30, 2011
    75
    While there's a casual dissonance to each twist in its winding plot that results in a disconnected and emotionally vapid experience, Detective Dee unquestionably achieves the escapism it intends.
  13. Reviewed by: Simon Abrams
    Aug 29, 2011
    75
    Hark's new film is a consummately bizarre crowd-pleaser that throws everything at the viewer from makeshift plastic surgery by acupuncture to death by spontaneous combustion.
  14. Reviewed by: Deborah Young
    Aug 29, 2011
    70
    Although it lacks the historical aura of classic Chinese wuxia backdrops, James Chiu's post-"Avatar" production design is memorably imaginative.
  15. Reviewed by: Nick Schager
    Aug 29, 2011
    70
    A CG-steeped period-piece fantasy that weds whodunit drama and punch-and-kick mayhem.
  16. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Aug 29, 2011
    70
    An inventive marriage of ancient China and Agatha Christie, Detective Dee and the Mystery of Phantom Flame is a lavishly overwrought historical whodunit.
  17. Reviewed by: Mark Feeney
    Sep 22, 2011
    63
    It's slambang in pacing, bald in exposition, and offers cast-of-hundreds spectacle.
  18. Reviewed by: Richard Nilsen
    Sep 29, 2011
    60
    If you can ignore the implausibility -- nay, the opacity -- of the plot, the film is wonderfully cinematic, with great photography, exciting editing, fresh camera angles and some impressive CGI.
  19. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Sep 2, 2011
    60
    To maximize your entertainment budget, look no further.
  20. Reviewed by: Keith Uhlich
    Aug 30, 2011
    60
    As the Sherlock Holmes of the second Zhou Dynasty, Lau is so effortlessly appealing that he manages to anchor the fatigue-heavy proceedings, even when his character has to outrun both the rays of the sun - don't ask - and a collapsing statue while crawling over and under a pack of stampeding horses. Now that's star power.
  21. Reviewed by: John DeFore
    Sep 23, 2011
    50
    A lightweight but enjoyable yarn.
  22. Reviewed by: G. Allen Johnson
    Sep 15, 2011
    50
    Pure escapist hokum, with action choreography by Sammo Hung, but I sure miss that old-school wire work.
  23. Reviewed by: V.A. Musetto
    Sep 2, 2011
    50
    All this is loads of fun, but after a while sensory overload sets in, dulling the mind. Even in a kung-fu flick, more isn't always better.
User Score
6.7

Generally favorable reviews- based on 18 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 7
  2. Negative: 0 out of 7
  1. Sep 19, 2011
    4
    I walked out of this film after about an hour. It's well shot, edited, acted, scored...the CGI is really good, the vistas are occasionally breathtaking....but it seemed like it was part of a Chinese series that I wasn't familiar with,and so I became bored. It was like watching an Indiana Jones movie when you didn't understand any of the cultural references, so the goings-on seemed disconnected and empty. Not enough action, intrigue or suspense from my point of view. Full Review »
  2. Oct 16, 2011
    4
    In first-century China, people are mysteriously bursting into flames, so, a group of experts is assembled to find out why. If there's any reason to watch the film, it's the martial arts scenes. Peppered throughout the tedious dialogue (in subtitles, no less) are a few jumbled fights that defy all physics. This is less "Crouching Tiger" and more Saturday morning kiddie action. Some of the art direction is interesting, but this is much too talky and unoriginal to merit attention. Full Review »
  3. Oct 10, 2011
    7
    Being a big fan of Crouching Tiger, House of Daggers, Hero, etc., I had to see this film. Although I would rank it last among those great films, I still enjoyed it. It doesn't possess the strong character development of those other great films, but is so strong on the visuals that it is a feast for the eyes. The plot is way too confusing but in the end I could figure most of it out. The fight scenes are Hollywood style - a moving camera and extreme close-ups so you can't see what's going on. They are not the great choreographed style of Crouching Tiger. The CGI varies - the giant Buddha looks fantastic, but the deer was jittery and fake looking. Overall I enjoyed the film due to the visual delights. I probably will purchase it is Blu-ray because it looks so great. Costumes, interior/exterior designs, beautiful locations - it excels in those areas. Full Review »