Monday 9 January 2012


(Tsui Hark, 2010)

Give ridiculously-prolific director Tsui Hark a starry cast and a big budget and you just know the result will be something interesting. Here the result is a marvellously inventive and energetic potboiler, full of the pleasures of mainstream Chinese cinema.
The story follows Detective Dee (played with wit and humour by Andy Lau) who has been imprisoned for opposing the Reign of an Empress. When her coronation is threatened by the deaths - due to apparent spontaneous combustion - of a couple of her pet Politicians, Dee is released to use his unparalleled detective skills to solve the case.
Of course that means many lengthy Kung Fu sequences, choreographed, imaginatively for the most part, by Sammo Hung. It also means a talking stag, some slapstick, a little muted romance, and throughout, an impressively mounted grand spectacle.
Utilising sporadically shoddy cgi, Hark conjures a vivid period world to life here; a thriving, bustling Chinese city which makes for a fine backdrop to the huge action set pieces he orchestrates. It is a tad overripe, but that is balanced by how consistently ravishing and unabashedly entertaining the whole thing is.

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