No one does period martial arts pictures quite like Tsui Hark. He’s slowed down since the halcyon days of the mid-’90s, to the point where I do a double-take now when I see his name on a new project announcement. The latest is Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, which could be the best name of an unpublished Asian adventure of Sherlock Holmes I’ve read this week. But it’s no Holmes tale; instead, it’s about a fictional case that might have been solved by a real detective from China’s past.
Andy Lau will be Detective Dee, called back from exile to solve a series of mysterious deaths which threaten to delay the inauguration of China’s only Empress. THR says Dee will partner with “gung-ho Commander Bei
and the Ghost Doctor, a master of disguise”, which, combined with Tsui Hark’s insistence that the film will be fun rather than a history lesson, sounds fantastic. Dee, immortalized as Judge Dee in a series of novels and comic strips by Robert van Gulik, is based on Di Renjie, a magistrate in the Tang Dynasty and twice chancellor during Empress Wu Zetian’s Zhou Dynasty.