Donnie Yen in for Bond-esque actioner

'14 Blades' will be directed by Daniel Lee

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CANNES -- Donnie Yen is to star in "14 Blades," a martial arts actioner being positioned as a "Chinese James Bond movie."

Production is set to begin this week in Ningxia, China, under the direction of Hong Kong's Daniel Lee ("Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon," "Black Mask").

The film, budgeted at $20 million, is produced by "Three Kingdoms" producer Susanna Tsang through her Hong Kong-based Visualizer Film Prods. and mainland China's Shanghai Film Group. World sales (excluding China, Singapore and Malaysia) are being handled by Easternlight, the Asian label of L.A.-based sales outfit Arclight Films.

The screenplay by Lee and Abe Kwong is set within Jinyiwei, a 14th century intelligence agency that hired street orphans and trained them as assassins who employed an arsenal of blades for torture and assassination. The story involves a licensed killer who has to overthrow a puppetmaster who has usurped the powers of the rightful emperor. The picture also stars Zhao Wei.

" '14 Blades' is really the first James Bond film from China and is based on historical fact," Tsang said. "Audiences from China and abroad have never seen this type of Chinese movie before."