Sunday, March 08, 2015

Dragon Blade

Year: 2015
Director: Daniel Lee
Cast: Jackie Chan, John Cusack, Adrien Brody

Plot: The Silk Road Protection Squad, led by Huo An, are framed for stealing royal gold and sentenced to hard labor at Wild Geese City in the Gobi desert. While there, they encounter Roman general Lucius, who is on the run with his men and Roman Consul Publius. The young consul is being hunted by his vicious older brother Tiberius, who wants the title for himself.

Review: Let's face it, Jackie Chan films aren't what they used to be. We're way past the era where he made jaw dropping stunts and fluid kungfu moves. We're also past his Hollywood career era where the Rush Hour movies struck gold. Now we're in his twilight era, where he makes movies to pass along positive messages while still doing what he knows best.

If the message in CZ12 is preserving historical treasures, Dragon Blade's message is undoubtedly racial harmony. Chan and director Daniel Lee put in a lot of effort not just in making the film look like an epic (it cost 65 million dollars), but also getting that very message across. Watch as Chan and Lee get people of various nationalities work together to a common goal, then the Chinese and Romans engage in friendly sparring, then they sing their respective anthems, then they build's overwhelming up to the point where you would just want them to get the film over with already.

But I will give credit where it's due, the action sequences are mostly well shot and choreographed. I'm happy to note that John Cusack and Adrien Brody do quite well in the sword fighting sequences against Chan. Best of all they fight in Roman style i.e. no Chinese style flying kungfu stuff. They look good enough to be convincing, so my hats off to them. The acting is mostly effective, except for a select few who look like they haven't had any acting lessons at all, but Chan, Cusack and Brody deliver their roles well. The two female lead characters played by Mika Wang and Lin Peng are unfortunately the common kind you would find in a Chan film.

On the whole, the film is entertaining enough, but it could use some editing, especially in the above mentioned message passing, and the pointless present day scenes featuring treasure hunters led by Vanness Wu. The film does get serious in the final third when Brody's Tiberius gets the ball rolling, but one wishes the entire movie was more balanced.

Overall, Dragon Blade is passable entertainment for the Lunar New Year, but I do have one question: why is the film titled Dragon Blade? (6/10) 

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