Film Review: Detective Dee: Four Heavenly Kings

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Detective Dee: Four Heavenly Kings

Empress Wu (Carina Lau) has been mistrustful of Detective Dee (Mark Chao) ever since the emperor (Chien Sheng) bestowed the Dragon Mace upon the loyal detective. The empress approaches the head of her royal guard, Yuchi Zhenjin (Shaofeng Feng), relying on his loyalty despite knowing how close he is to Dee. She questions whether should she request him to take the Mace from Dee would he do it?  He replies that should he do that, Dee would be subject to execution, his family ruined. She swears she will protect them all.

The Empress lies…

Empress Wu has brought some newcomers to court to replace Dee, claiming they have greater powers. Huan Tian (Aoyue Zhang) and his group demonstrate their abilities before the royal couple. Wu sends them to retrieve the Mace, but that is easier said than done as Dee is wily and no man’s fool. In the meantime, he has been sent on a fool’s errands, but he sees through this and hurries back to the Bureau when someone trips the alarm.


Yuchi is torn between his loyalty to the empress and his friendship for Dee, but Dee’s faith in his friend 

never wavers. It is imperative that he figure out what is going on before something terrible happens – namely, the destruction of the Tang dynasty! And what exactly is on the Empress’s agenda?

This was a really good movie, action-packed and full of intrigue and mystery, as well as magic, and a little comedy. It’s easy to accept how evil the Empress is from earlier acquaintance with her. She is a very power hungry woman. But she is also human and fallible, as we discover.  I liked the interplay between the female assassin (Sichuan Ma) and Dee’s right hand man Shatuo Zhong (Kenny Lin). I have to admit I missed the doctor from the last installment, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of this film..

Ancient grudges, sinister magic, spirituality, intrigue… this film has it all and then some.  I’m sad that there are no more movies with this same cast, although there appear to be others utilizing the same character.  I think I’ll give those a pass. Although there may be, if the glimpses in the ending credits are any indication. If you are interested, check out the Judge Dee stories, the original inspiration for Detective Dee. I reviewed the first book on this blog already.

I’ll give this film a strong 4.5 Stars

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