Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' Watch: Trailer For 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' Unrated Blu-Ray Edition, Will Also Feature An Alternate Ending Watch: Trailer For 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' Unrated Blu-Ray Edition, Will Also Feature An Alternate Ending New Directors/New Films Review: Jia Zhang-ke Produced 'K' Is A New Take On Franz Kafka's 'The Castle' New Directors/New Films Review: Jia Zhang-ke Produced 'K' Is A New Take On Franz Kafka's 'The Castle' Viggo Mortensen Reveals He Turned Down Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight,' Auditioned For 'Reservoir Dogs' Viggo Mortensen Reveals He Turned Down Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight,' Auditioned For 'Reservoir Dogs' Watch: First Teaser Trailer For 'Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation' With Tom Cruise Arrives, If You Choose To Accept It Watch: First Teaser Trailer For 'Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation' With Tom Cruise Arrives, If You Choose To Accept It Jonathan Nolan Says His Original Ending To 'Interstellar' Was “Much More Straightforward” Jonathan Nolan Says His Original Ending To 'Interstellar' Was “Much More Straightforward” The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Tribeca Reviews: 'Detective Dee', 'Underwater Love' & 'Let The Bullets Fly'

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist May 3, 2011 at 3:43AM

"Detective Dee And The Mystery Of The Phantom Flame"With the rise of China's first female ruler there came dissent. Also, there came spontaneous combustion, according to Tsui Hark's colorful, madcap mystery, where a poison has entered the bloodstream of several top advisers. No one knows they've been poisoned, of course, until they are greeted by sunlight, and the chemical compound erupts, flames emerging from their insides. This pseudo-science nightmare means only one thing: ruler Wu Zetian must unleash China's top detective (Andy Lau) who is in prison, and has fairly outspoken against her appointment. Oops.
0


"Detective Dee And The Mystery Of The Phantom Flame"
With the rise of China's first female ruler there came dissent. Also, there came spontaneous combustion, according to Tsui Hark's colorful, madcap mystery, where a poison has entered the bloodstream of several top advisers. No one knows they've been poisoned, of course, until they are greeted by sunlight, and the chemical compound erupts, flames emerging from their insides. This pseudo-science nightmare means only one thing: ruler Wu Zetian must unleash China's top detective (Andy Lau) who is in prison, and has fairly outspoken against her appointment. Oops.

"Detective Dee" is filled with spectacular wuxia sequences and a sharp art direction blossoming with loud, defiant reds against more drab, pedestrian backgrounds. But the fantastical elements, like a talking deer who on the surface seems more plausible than the the accompanying real-world explanation, clash against the deadly serious tone, which Hark seems to use as an excuse to confuse the story with actual historical fiction. As such, "Detective Dee" has imagination and visual flare to spare, but it's a near-joyless experience peppered with lively eye-candy rather than a genuinely intriguing movie. Hark shows moments of sly wit, but his attitude is far too dry for something that feels like it should be a more supernatural, eastern take on "Sherlock Holmes." [C+]


"Underwater Love"
Young woman Asuka's future is on the right track: she's got a decent job, her fiance is very caring, and every so often the world around her will break into a full-blown musical bit. Complications arrive in the form of a kappa, a human-like creature with a beak, a tortoise shell, and a dome that requires constant watering. This is Aoki, an old high school friend of hers that drowned at 17, now reincarnated as this mythical being and determined to stay by her side. Despite her promising life, she takes an affection to Aoki which abruptly derails her squeaky-clean life, especially when he reveals the true nature of his arrival.

A strange hybrid of musical and soft-core porn, "Underwater Love" often fails in its batshit nature. Thankfully it never feels forced (the sex scenes, especially with the kappa, are particularly funny), but there's not a whole lot of spirit here, especially in the musical scenes which feel very sterilized and weak. Often times they consist of a lone character dancing around and singing a happy ditty after a depressing scene, but the humor of the juxtaposition wears thin due to their excessive length and lack of juice. You wouldn't know it was shot by the consistently-name-dropped cinematographer Christopher Doyle; here he keeps the tricks to a minimum and makes pretty faceless work, which is a shame considering the movie could use his oomph. Shinji Imaoka's flick tries to marry the weird and dramatic much like "The Taste of Tea" so perfectly did, and though he gets props for trying something different, the result is often boring and lifeless. [C]

"Let The Bullets Fly"
Who is "Pocky" Zhang? The gags fly as quickly as the titular bullets in this Chinese comedy, the highest grossing in Chinese history, that you'll be excused for taking a bit of time to figure it out. The mythic name is bandied about during a complex crime story involving a gang of bandits in 1920's China who decide to turn a failed robbery into a chance for redemption. With the accidental death of the governor, the man who would be Pocky (writer/director Jiang Wen) decides to ride into town and assist the townspeople with the governor's fortune.

It's far from simple, as his kindhearted ruse is transparent to local crime boss Master Huang (Chow Yun-Fat, having a great time). Huang isn't the type of criminal who will let someone wander into town and spoil the townspeople. What happens next are a series of mindgames between Pocky and Huang as both of them toy with their respective identities towards the public, muddying the line that separates them as Samaritan and Opportunist. "Let The Bullets Fly" is underwhelming in the action department, its combat sequences snappy but ill-realized and oft-confusing. Where it sings is during the rat-a-tat-tat wordplay between the cast as they endlessly try to outwit each other despite notably weak intellectual means. It's a dash of Shaw Brothers, with a hefty helping of Marx. [B]
-with additional reporting by Christopher Bell

This article is related to: Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

E-Mail Updates