Monday, 29 November 2010
14 BLADES (2010)
Directed by: Daniel Lee
Written by: Daniel Lee, Abe Kwong
Starring: Donnie Yen, Zhao Wei, Chun Wu Kate Tsui, Yuwu Qui, Sammo Hung
Donnie Yen continues his domination of big budget Hong Kong action cinema with the visually stunning and action packed period piece, 14 Blades. Yen has been on a good run for some time now with hits like SPL, Flashpoint, Ip Man 1 & 2 and Bodyguards and Assassins cementing him as the number one star of Eastern martial arts cinema. 14 Blades seems to be continuing this run and is a welcome throwback to wuxia films of the 80s and 90s and a thoroughly satisfying martial arts film.
Yen is Green Dragon, one of the top agents in the Jin Yi Wei, a group of bad ass fighters and swordsmen who protect the Emperor and uphold peace in his land. Green Dragon wields the "14 blades" a case he carries with him containing 14 different blades each with a different purpose. Sent on a secret mission by the Emperor, Green Dragon is set up and left for dead by his own men. On the run and hunted by those he once trusted, Green Dragon has to reassess his loyalties and plots revenge with the help of a lovely lady and a band of crossbow wielding desert pirates.
From style, to action, to fantasy, 14 Blades is a delight for martial arts fans. As the plot unfolds and characters double-cross one another and challenge each other to fights, proceedings may not surprise in any narrative way but the film harks back to the golden age of these types of films: suitably nasty bad guys with dastardly powers that make them deadly in a fight, a blossoming romance, great locations, a wronged hero out to right himself and lots and lots of fantasy styled action. Director Daniel Lee (Three Kingdoms) creates a visually arresting, almost gothic like, setting playing to the fantasy elements of the film but keeps enough grit in to give the characters and fights a tough edge. Yen carries the film, playing a quieter more restrained hero for a change, not as indestructible as he is in many of his other films. In fact, he takes quite a pasting in the various scenes of kung fu combat.
The fight scenes are big and full of flight-of-fancy moves, techniques and magic. This being a somewhat fantasy styled action pic, the wuxia element is played up meaning characters can glide through the air, pull off impossible moves and surroundings are almost always destroyed in some way when two characters fight. This means we don't get quite as much one-on-one hard hitting fight action but the spectacle is certainly well handled and Yen once again shows how versatile he can be in the action department.
Unfortunately, ropey CGI does rear its ugly head one-two many times but it's nothing that can't be lived with. Lee tries to perhaps cram in too many characters, the somewhat fast pace not always allowing them to register on screen and Sammo Hung's cameo is all but a blink-and-you'll-miss-him appearance. Yet, at the end of day, 14 Blades is still quality fantasy themed martial arts cinema. While Yen seems to be making a fair share of period styled films of late (be great to see him back in a modern day cop actioner like Flashpoint again soon), 14 Blades is one of his most enjoyable: it looks great, it moves at a fair lick and is filled with excellent action scenes.