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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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I first encountered the renowned Tang Dynasty official Dí Rénjié in Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee novels. Detective Dee in the film is a slightly different character from the book but his trademark deductive analysis and his strong sense of public policy being what is best for the state and people are still there. Here he is also a much more formidable martial arts fighter. Add to this some fantastical magic and weird beasts and you have a film that cries out for modern special effects. Fortunately, it has special effects in abundance. The story is long and complex with the mystery often hidden behind internal power politics, but it is there to be solved even if I came to it late in the film. The subtitles are a little odd but the film has brio enough to overcome that. One reviewer notes he watched it more than once to get its full value, I can only echo his sage advice.
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on 30 January 2012
Best name for a character ever. This movie was thoroughly enjoyable. Lot's of twists. I'd have preferred more martial arts trickery. Hope they make a follow-up.
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VINE VOICEon 12 March 2011
Director Tsui Hark is back on form with this fantasy historical mystery featuring Chinese folk hero Di Renji who was used by Robert van Gulik for his Judge Dee series of books.

The film opens with the construction on an absolutely enormous hollow statue of Buddha which overlooks the royal palace. It has to be finished for the coronation of the Empress or heads (and probably other parts) will roll as she's a pretty ruthless sort of person. Work is interrupted when two officials spontaneously self-combust. So, there's a complicated mystery to solve so who ya gonna call? As only one person has the brains and requisit skill to sort it out, there isn't much choice. Just one teensy little problem: he's been in prison for five years for stirring up trouble against the Empress who has a lot of rivals.

Needless to say, he's soon on the case, trusting no-one not even the beautiful Jing'er the Empress's right hand woman, or the albino official Pei who are supposed to be helping him. When not attempting to solve the mystery, he's fighting off assassination attempts and demonstrating superior martial arts skills. He's also a rationalist, solving the puzzle by science rather than superstition. However, this is a fantasy historical mystery movie so it's often fantasy science. We don't have any beetles which... Oops, nearly gave away something I shouldn't.

This is a gorgeous film to look at with spectacular special effects and some great action sequences directed by Sammo Hung. Red herrings abound, many people have deep dark secrets they don't want finding out, Dee can't trust the Empress, or anyone, people are sometimes quite literally not who they seem. I will say one thing: despite all the trappings, the story plays fair when the villain is finally revealed (and has a spectacular fight with our hero) and Dee's deductions presented to the audience.

The only technical aspect which lets the film down somewhat is the subtitling -and I should add that this review is based on watching a Hong Kong DVD. The translator doesn't have as good a command of English as he should, frequently getting tenses wrong. Also, contemporary slang is sometimes used which is somewhat jarring and together they tend to pull you out of the film. Good subtitling makes for a seamless viewing experience.

That qualification aside, this is great fun and if you like it you'll certainly enjoy the other recent historical action film Reign of Assassins.
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on 4 August 2011
If you enjoy fast paced action movies this will not disappoint, but it is also so much more and works on a number of different levels.

I frequently find that good Asian historical movies have considerable depth and philosophical content and Detective Dee also ticks this box, but it also works exceptionally well as a 'whodunnit' and the central role of a 200 foot statue also adds considerable spectacle to the movie.

You care about the characters in this movie thanks to the brilliant actors, director and script and unfortunately not all of them make it through the film and some come to sometimes grisly and unexpected ends, but it is never gratuitious and works well within the plot.

Striding through the movie with nobility, wit, humour and some of the fastest action moves in the business is Andy Lau who is fast becoming my favourite actor in these sorts of films alongside Jet Li. He makes Dee a complex, three dimensional character with the mind of Sherlock Holmes and unsurpassable fighting abilities combined with an inherent sense of right and wrong. In every film I've seen him in Andy Lau just seems to get better and better and this I think is now my favourite Andy Lau movie.

It's easy to praise a film, but I think one of the real tests of how much you enjoy a film is how quickly you are keen to watch it again and in this case I've already watched Detective Dee twice all the way through in the space of four days and given the nature of the plot I found I got even more out of the film second time around and I would be happy to watch it again.

Detective Dee has all the high production values you would expect in a hollywood blockbuster, but with more fast moving and more jaw dropping action sequences. It also has all the Eastern philosophy you would expect and a great plot and is a great whodunnit. I can't praise it enough and if you are in two minds about buying this DVD don't hesitate. Just buy it. You will not be disappointed!
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on 29 September 2012
Like other reviewers I bought this DvD after having read the excellent books of Robert Van Gulik. I was very worried that the film would spoil the image of Dee from the books. Luckily the storyline of the film occurs much later in Dees career than the events in the books so there was no clash.

The size, complexity and detail of the special effects are just brilliant. The storyline is a bit hard to follow at times but that is because of the difference between Eastern and Western cultures. It occurs in the books too, but let's be right that is why we are reading/watching. Initially I found that it was difficult to read the sub titles without missing what was happening on screen but by the end of the film I had got into it.

I am new to these modern Eastern films but I was so impressed that I have already purchased 'Confucius'.

Great entertainment and highly recommended.

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on 21 October 2011
The film itself is VERY GOOD & looks amazing on this blu-ray disc. The menus & movie itself play wonderfully on my US model Pioneer BD player (Pioneer BDP-320), but sadly the extras (interviews & 'Making of' segments) do not. Amazon lists it as a Region B/2 disc, but there's NO indication (that I can see)on the case or disc about this particular limitation. Not sure if it's my TV set (an older Sony HDTV CRT set: Sony KD 34XBR960N) or the disc player, that will not sync-up the video on the Extras.
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on 19 November 2011
Very lush period martial arts/epic from the vast Chinese film industry that is pumping out so many grand flims now. For those that loved "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", beautifully filmed with a good story (although some plot inconsistencies). This version plays on North American Blu-ray players (at least on my PS3), except for special features. Title not yet available in North America until December, so pick it up on Amazon.co.uk especially fro the cheap price (even after currency conversion and shipping -no duty (at least for Canada))
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on 28 June 2011
Once again Andy Lau doesn't disappoint in a leading role and he really brought the character of Detective Dee to life. A touch of Gil Grissom with his quiet stillness yet underneath it all the man can move.
This film centers on a series of murders and Dee is brought from captivity to solve them and in the course of his actions he too becomes a target for assassins.
A good whodunit with the action moved along at a steady pace and the special effects were well done and didn't detract from the overall feel of the film.
It was MY kind of film.
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on 4 October 2015
One of Tsui HArk best films and definitely his best in years.
Here Hark seems to have found a second youth and his original touch: a visionary creativity that is so well balanced with an excellent plot and storytelling, introducing a worthy chinese version of Sherlock HOlmes in a story that talks about power, lies, cheating on and controlling people through threat, fear and propaganda.
So even a subtly political film, dipped into a fantastic entertainment where his style and visual effects play a remarkable role in the final excellent result.
Blu ray is almost perfect
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on 28 January 2013
The period and the name 'Dee' suggested that this was my old friend Judge Dee, whose exploits I've read about since I was an adolescent (I'm 73 now), and I wasn't disappointed. Superb film. I suppose the martial arts are inevitable these days, but the special effects, cinematography, 'magic' were spectacular, and the sense of period, ie 8th Century China convincing. Judge Dee's intellect and his intrepid mission to investigate the mysteries at the heart of the phantom flame absolutely gripping.
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