Cause for celebration, indeed: Hong Kong director Tsui Hark is back, and if anything, his vision has gotten more crazily energetic and eye-dazzling in his latest effort. In DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME, Andy Lau plays actual historical figure Dee Renjie, a disgraced judge who’s compelled to confront the undeniably fantastic when he’s sprung from prison by embattled Empress Wu to find out who is exterminating her entourage by having them burst spontaneously into flame. As can be expected from Hark, the film is a treasure trove of dizzyingly exquisite fight sequences, backed up by a witty and intelligent story line that has Dee on the one hand deploying science against the forces of superstition and on the other sees him in conflict with an empress ruthlessly determined to maintain her power. It’s got action, it’s got spectacle, it’s got a deer who can kick ass. What else could you ask for?
Click on the player to hear my interview with Hark.