"Weird, Laughable, Pagan Martial Arts Mystery"
DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME is a bizarre, laughable, inconsistent, pagan, martial-arts murder mystery that’s incredulously layered and incongruously forgettable.
After the chief architect of the soon-to-be-crowned Empress Wu’s enormously large Buddha statue mysteriously bursts into flame, the royal investigators are called in to solve the mystery. However, after a series of misleading clues and several more assassinations, the Empress is forced to call Detective Dee, a man who’s been in prison for the last few years after leading an investigation against the then-aspiring Empress.
Even though Detective Dee once stood at odds with the power-hungry woman who seized the throne, he vows loyalty to the crown and sets out to find the assassin. The case leads him through a maze of royal conspiracies from the seedy underbelly of China’s criminal ilk to the sacred halls of the Empress’ mystic prophets. As he pieces together the murderous plot, he uncovers a dangerous plot that seeks to destroy the Empress and China’s royal dynasty.
Simply put: this is a bizarre, poorly made movie. The plot is all over the place, stealing from multiple plot devices and storytelling techniques. The directing is inconsistent and derivative, not-so-subtly borrowing from other martial arts movies. The acting performances range from overly dramatic to ridiculously laughable. (One hint for the writers and director: If/when test audiences are laughing out loud at your prophetically talking deer whose inane character is responsible for setting up major plot points, it’s time to change storytelling devices.)
The movie also has a strong, mixed pagan worldview with occult and false religion devices, including a major plot elements revolving around a giant statue of Buddha and prophetically talking animals. The movie has some violent content, including people bursting into flames during assassination attempts as well as martial arts violence, some light sexual content and mild language. However, the movie’s content is not nearly as abhorrent as the ridiculous story to which the creators are subjecting us. Thankfully, the movie has a very limited release, so most audiences won’t be exposed to its ridiculous incredulity.
(PaPaPa, OO, FRFR, PC, L, VV, S, N, DD, MM) Very strong mixed pagan worldview with occult elements of astrology, mystical animals that talk and prophecy to people as well as strong false religious/Buddhist elements including depicted chants and a gigantic Buddha statue is being constructed for the Empress, some politically correct comments about torture and immoral characters who lie, cheat, and steal in order to maintain their power and Empress makes comment that “one can’t be conservative in the affairs of state” and declares that, in regards to maintaining power, “everyone is expendable”; six obscenities and three substitutionary curse words; strong violence includes several people being murdered/assassinated with a “phantom flame” that burns them alive, martial arts violence throughout the movie, man eats a beetle, an extreme occult form of acupuncture is used to change people’s visual appearance, man is shot in the head with an arrow, man is stabbed, people fight with and kill possessed deer, and woman is shot by arrows set up from booby traps; woman seduces man and implied nude physical contact including unmarried kissing although their encounter is interrupted by assassins; upper male nudity and implied/nearly depicted female nudity, woman’s bare back is shown; no alcohol use; no depicted drug use, however people’s water is poisoned with fire beetles that cause the people to burst into flame when they are exposed to sunlight; and, conspiracy, revenge, assassination attempts, man wrongfully imprisoned, lying, backstabbing, corrupt political officials, and a lot of miscellaneous immorality.
DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME is a bizarre, laughable martial arts fantasy from China. The chief architect of the soon-to-be-crowned Empress Wu’s enormously large Buddha statue mysteriously bursts into flame. Royal investigators are called in to solve the mystery. However, after a series of misleading clues and several more deaths, the Empress is forced to call Detective Dee. Dee’s been in prison for the last few years after leading an investigation against the then-aspiring Empress. Detective Dee vows loyalty to the crown and sets out to find the assassin. The case leads him through a maze of royal conspiracies, from the seedy underbelly of China’s criminal ilk to the sacred halls of the Empress’ mystic prophets. As he pieces together the evidence, he uncovers a dangerous plot seeking to destroy the Empress and China’s royal dynasty.
DETECTIVE DEE is a bizarre, poorly made movie. The plot is all over the place. The directing is inconsistent and derivative, stealing extensively from other movies. The acting ranges from overly dramatic to ridiculously laughable. DETECTIVE DEE also has a strong, mixed pagan worldview with occult and false Eastern religion.