Kicking It Old School

by wjw on September 1, 2011


Via Ian McDowell, this juicy trailer from Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame. Directed by my onetime creative associate Tsui Hark, with fight chorography by Sammo Hung, and starring Andy Lau, Carina Lau, and Tony Leung (Ka-fai).  The movie was nominated for thirteen Hong Kong Film Awards and won six.

I’m always happy to see Judge Dee in any of his incarnations.  My first introduction to the character came from the series of mystery novels by Robert van Gulik, a Dutch diplomat whose assignments kept him in the Far East for most of his life.   Van Gulik began by translating a largely-forgotten Ming dynasty mystery novel into English, and then followed The Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee by writing a large number of original mysteries featuring the character.

Not that the character is fictional.  Judge Dee, more properly Di Renjie, was a genuine Tang Dynasty official celebrated for upright conduct and for solving  complicated mysteries, and whose real life seems to have been eventful enough for half a dozen novels.  In any case, he was the hero of a lot of Ming Dynasty popular fiction.

Chinese mystery novels tend to feature magic and the occult— the deceased’s ghost is often a character— but van Gulik eschewed this tradition in his own work, following Western models.  Judging by this trailer, the magic is back, along with a whole lot of wire fu.

I’ll be counting the days.


Jean-Daniel September 1, 2011 at 5:43 am

The movie was released here last May and I just bought the DVD. Looks nifty.

Steve Stirling September 2, 2011 at 3:46 am

Cool. I loved van Gulick’s Judge Dee stories; I have them all on my Kindle now.

Foxessa September 2, 2011 at 5:47 pm

It’s opened here today, including at a theater right up the street. I think I’ll go tomorrow. Though the trailers make the colors and cgi – animation look kind of that same dull ash washed that all the stuff shot like that looks. So different from all live action, for sure.

Love, C.

Jean-Daniel September 5, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Impressive visuals. Clever script. Good acting. Well-drawn characters. A bit too juvenile for my taste, but all-around good fun. And none of that darn clichés that plague today’s Western action-adventure movies. (In this picture, the villains don’t swagger–they punch people in the face. How refreshing.)

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