Generally favorable reviews - based on 23 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 18 Ratings

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  • Summary: A bizarre murder mystery brings together the most powerful woman in China, the soon-to-be-Empress Wu Zetian, and a formerly exiled detective, Dee Renjie, at the infamous Imperial Palace. Hoping that he will solve the crime before her coronation, Wu appoints Dee Chief Judge of the Empire and implores him to combine his indisputable wisdom with his unparalleled martial arts skills to save the future of her dynasty. (Indomina Releasing) Expand
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: Richard Corliss
    Sep 1, 2011
    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."
  3. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Sep 21, 2011
    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.
  4. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Aug 30, 2011
    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.
  5. Reviewed by: Deborah Young
    Aug 29, 2011
    Although it lacks the historical aura of classic Chinese wuxia backdrops, James Chiu's post-"Avatar" production design is memorably imaginative.
  6. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Aug 29, 2011
    An inventive marriage of ancient China and Agatha Christie, Detective Dee and the Mystery of Phantom Flame is a lavishly overwrought historical whodunit.
  7. Reviewed by: V.A. Musetto
    Sep 2, 2011
    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.

See all 23 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 7
  2. Negative: 0 out of 7
  1. Sep 14, 2011
    I'm pretty open minded when it comes to movies...just looking to be entertained. And I fully was! Sure, the plot is sometimes hard to follow with subtitles, but it was so adventurous and really fun to watch. It felt epic at times, woozy weird at times and kept my eyes wide. All over the place. I haven't seen anything like it before, so I'm glad I got to see it. Expand
  2. Oct 8, 2011
    Detective Dee is not a Western Action flick. That sort of big-budget explodey-CGI belongs to Hollywood, and that's where it should stay. Instead, it delivers a sort of goofy mashup between solid physical stunts, and the floaty impossibility of Crouching Tiger-style acrobatics. Yeah, there's some sleuthing too - the plot is rooted in Detective Dee's ability to solve a series of mysterious murders before the first ever female emperor is coronated - but the mystery aspect (and much of the dialogue, actually) is, if possible, even less probable than the rest of the film. Part of this can be explained by the cultural divide. Detective Dee is very much a Chinese film, both in setting and content. Don't expect a Sherlock Holmes clone, and you won't be disappointed... but don't expect a Crouching Tiger knockoff either. Detective Dee makes its own place somewhere in-between, and the result is a thoroughly enjoyable adventure flick awash with kooky sight gags, some questionable CGI, and a few instances of honest to goodness suspense. Expand
  3. Sep 3, 2011
    The detective and the emperor-to-be's #2 are both excellent and entertaining as hell, and the visuals are fantastic. But things seem to unravel a bit over the last 30 minutes such that it doesn't conclude in the most satisfying way. I'd still recommend it, but it requires a bit more patience than other flicks of this genre. If you're into talking deers - step up! Collapse
  4. Oct 10, 2011
    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. Expand
  5. Sep 28, 2011
    The Emperor is dead and next in line to replace him is a woman. Never in the history of China has there been an Empress. As her coronation draws closer, loyalties are tested, schemes are rumored, and when people start to literally burst into flames, the stakes can be no higher for all involved. This is the set up for an in-depth mystery with a side of kung fu action. In late 7th century China, thousands of laborers are working under pressure to complete an immensely tall tower in the shape of the Buddha in time for the Empressâ Expand
  6. Sep 19, 2011
    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. Expand
  7. Oct 16, 2011
    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. Expand