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.
A.O. Scott - New York Times
"Dee" doesn't shoot for the gravitas of Zhang Yimou's "Hero." It doesn't approach that film's magnificent sensory impact, either, or the artistic romanticism that made "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" such a success here.
John DeFore - Washington Post
It's slambang in pacing, bald in exposition, and offers cast-of-hundreds spectacle.
Mark Feeney - Boston Globe
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.
J. Hoberman - Village Voice
Director Tsui Hark sets expansive melodrama against flamboyant sets, and the all-star cast is up for even the most outlandish of Sammo Hung's action choreography.
Elizabeth Weitzman - New York Daily News
Some of the action in "Detective Dee" is computer-generated hallucination, some is just good-old life-threatening stunt work, but it is almost always a thrill.
John Anderson - Wall Street Journal
A bewitching fantasy.
Roger Ebert - Chicago Sun-Times
Three decades into his career, Tsui Hark stands as one of the movies' great entertainers, displaying a dancer's sense of rhythm and movement and manipulating physical space with an abandon worthy of Chuck Jones.
Ben Sachs - Chicago Reader
Is it possible for Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame to be any more riotously over-the-top than it is?
Steven Rea - Philadelphia Inquirer
It is a peculiar conflation of history -- there really was an Empress Wu -- and pure cinematic fantasy.
Richard Nilsen - Arizona Republic
An inventive marriage of ancient China and Agatha Christie.
Justin Chang - Variety
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.
V.A. Musetto - New York Post
A colourful carnival of relentless action and artful images.
Linda Barnard - Toronto Star
Hark delivers a highly enjoyable alternative to Western blockbusters by simply keeping the narrative in flux with a series of well-executed sequences -- a cinema of distraction, if you will.
Eric Kohn - indieWIRE
Detective Dee is the action flick of the year, a two-hour epic that blows the Pirates of the Caribbean to the Bermuda Triangle.
Stephen Cole - Globe and Mail
Neil Young - Hollywood Reporter
Breathtaking sets and effects give this youthful martial arts film a modern air.
Deborah Young - Hollywood Reporter
We'd call it Crouching Tiger, Freakin' Masterpiece.
Richard Corliss - TIME Magazine
Chang Chia-lu's intricate script bristles with wit and suspense; the film from start to finish is a terrific entertainment.
Kevin Thomas - Los Angeles Times
If you're looking for a popcorn movie, producer-director Tsui has crafted an absurdist fantasy that might cure -- or spontaneously combust -- the summertime blues. But even escapist entertainment can have interesting angles.
Susan Tavernetti - Palo Alto Weekly
What's tragic about "Detective Dee" is the fact that it rapes a chapter of Chinese history beyond any semblance of reality.
Martin Tsai - Critic's Notebook
Mike Goodridge - Screen International
The game's afoot, and the foot knows kung fu.
John Beifuss - Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
There is nothing wrong with its reach, but its grasp of genre elements is random.
Duane Dudek - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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.
Mike Russell - Oregonian
The film's visual style is at times so dense it simply overwhelms (ditto the plot).
Chris Chang - Film Comment Magazine
The huge budget fails to hide a certain poverty of imagination.
Kelly Vance - East Bay Express
- Austin Chronicle
Creative spectacle, humor, and suspense drive the film, and we can only hope that Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame kicks off a new mystery franchise.
Marjorie Baumgarten - Austin Chronicle
By the end, with the running time pushing past the two-hour mark, it's reasonable to ask: Just who are these people?
John Hartl - Seattle Times
Directed by the master Tsui Hark, 'Detective Dee' is one rip-snorting piece of action-movie eye candy,
James Verniere - Boston Herald
Detective Dee And The Mystery Of The Phantom Flame is a thriller, an action movie, an effects-heavy mythical adventure and even a little bit of a love story. In short, it's every sort of film director Tsui Hark has made in the past all rolled into one.
Norman Wilner - NOW Toronto
A computer-generated fantasia where something as ridiculous as a fistfight that occurs while the fighters are on the backs of two different horses entertains us because it is so audaciously unreal.
Chris Hewitt (St. Paul) - St. Paul Pioneer Press
...feels like a return to the thrilling salad days of HK action - but with a contemporary spin.
Corey Hall - Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Spectacular and spectacularly goofy...Even if you find the story ludicrous, the visuals will keep your eyes occupied--if not your mind.
Frank Swietek - One Guy's Opinion
Tsui plays as fast and loose with historical fact as stunt director and frequent collaborator Sammo Hung does with the movie's exhilarating action sequences, which feature the usual wire work and set-extending CG trickery.
Brett Michel - Boston Phoenix
Tsui's skill, the fluidity of the images, and the charisma of the cast, all contribute to make this a worthwhile effort.
Jeffrey M. Anderson - Combustible Celluloid
If nothing else, the film is colorful.
G. Allen Johnson - San Francisco Chronicle
There's an unmistakable, unintentional X-Files feel here
Norm Schrager - Filmcritic.com
It's the kind of ambitious, loopy spectacle that begs to be seen on the big screen if at all possible.
Stephanie Zacharek - Movieline
The occasionally plodding pacing, general overlength and aversion to coherent storytelling are all obvious obstacles to breakout international success.
Geoff Berkshire - Metromix.com
What makes Detective Dee worthy of Hark is that the action is always thematically justified, underscoring who our champion is.
Noel Murray - AV Club
Seventh-century detective risks his life to solve puzzling cases of human spontaneous combustion. Delirious amalgam of mystery, martial arts and melodrama from one of the stalwarts of Hong Kong cinema.
Daniel Eagan - Film Journal International
The film becomes more deliriously nonsensical by the moment, which is part of its intermittent charms...
Keith Uhlich - Time Out
Delivers a deluge of memorable moments.
Nick Schager - Boxoffice Magazine
That the film is also vibrant, exciting and not a little baffling certainly sweetens - and in part covers over - a message that is, in the Chinese context, rather inflammatory.
Anton Bitel - Little White Lies
So batshit that calling it director Tsui Hark's comeback is an aptly ridiculous claim.
Simon Abrams - Slant Magazine
The costumes' stiffness sucks the giddiness out of frequently preposterous plot turns.
Chris Barsanti - PopMatters
There's a tasty idea in here, and it's entertainingly executed: graft a detective story onto a historical martial arts actioner set during the Tang dynasty, and see what emerges.
Lee Marshall - Screen International
(Tsui Hark's) romp plays exactly like the Sino-centric spin on an Indiana Jones adventure that its title suggests it should.
Simon Foster - sbs.com.au
Ripping fun in ways Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes could only dream of.
Fernando F. Croce - Slant Magazine