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Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings

Opening Date
26 Jul 2018
PG13 Some Violence
132 mins
Mandarin with English & Chinese subtitles
Action, Suspense
Tsui Hark
Mark Chao, Feng Shao Feng, Lin Geng Xin, Sandra Ma, Carina Lau
Mysterious events keep happening in Luoyang (capital of ancient China Tang Dynasty): warriors wearing totem masks perpetrate crime all around the city; the fox outside the bar begins to speak human language; dragons on the column of the palace come alive; the Heavenly Kings in the temple show its angry face. Dee (Mark Chao, Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon) needs to solve the puzzles behind the mysterious cases, while facing obstacles from Empress Wu (Carina Lau, Detective Dee series).
By Yun-Huei  25 Jul 2018
Fight choreography is still above par, and the costume designs are lavish and a treat to look at.
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Given that this is the third movie in the Detective Dee franchise, one would assume that Tsui Hark and crew would have refined the movie and its parts down to an exact science. Unfortunately, Detective Dee and the Four Heavenly Kings (nope, not the teenybopper heartthrobs from the 90s) is a literally embodiment of being all over the place, and running an overlong 137 minutes really makes matters worse. What could have been a relatively simple plot is weighed down by literally dozens of plot threads, and the result is a mess of a film that gives short shrift to almost every subplot, which really defeats the purpose of setting up these narratives to begin with.

It really is quite a pity, as there are moments in Four Heavenly Kings that manage to stand out. Fight choreography is still above par, and the costume designs are lavish and a treat to look at. Mark Chao, who was a bit too smug (bordering on unlikeable) in his previous outing as Detective Dee, has mellowed in his performance and inches closer to Andy Lau’s still-superior performance in the first film. The film also chooses to focus less on Dee’s character and more on his compatriots Shatuo and Yuchi, though the lack of chemistry between the key players does diminish this move somewhat. Where the film truly falters, however, is in its copious use of mediocre CG, and in its final reel the CG is so dodgy that one wonders if the film had run out of budget during post.

While I appreciate a complex whodunit plot like any mystery fan would, the puzzle and eventual “solution” in Four Heavenly Kings is so unclear and convoluted that I actually gave up trying to figure anything out about halfway into the movie. Given that Tsui Hark had more than two hours to tell this tale, the lack of clarity is really an embarrassment. While the film sets up a fourth outing for its characters, it’s hard to imagine audiences staying enthused about the franchise in its current trajectory. 
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Trailers / Videos
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Teaser Trailer#1

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