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14 BLADES (HK/China)

Genre: Martial Arts
Director: Daniel Lee
Cast: Donnie Yen, Zhao Wei, Qi Yuwu, Wu Chun, Kate Tsui, Sammo Hung, Damian Lau, Chen Guan Tai, Wu Ma, Law Kar Ying
RunTime: 1 hr 55 mins
Released By: GV & Mediacorp Raintree Pictures
Rating: PG (Some Violence)
Official Website: http://www.14blades.com/en.htm

Opening Day: 4 February 2010


Trained in clandestine combat from childhood, the Jinyiwei were masters of the 14 Blades. Above the law and with a license to kill, they devoted their lives and lethal prowess to the service of the Emperor alone.

When the Imperial Court is taken over by evil eunuch JIA, the best of the Jinyiwei, QINGLONG is assigned to steal a list identifying those still loyal to the Emperor. Unbeknownst to Qinglong, the Jinyiwei have fallen under the control of Jia, and during the mission he’s betrayed and barely escapes with his life.

Now as the most wanted man in the land Qinglong must seek out and rally the loyalists to rise against Jia and restore the Emperor to power.

In his way are the deadliest assassins in the land, his former brethren, the Jinyiwei.

Movie Review:

There's a running gag in Moviexclusive that Director Daniel Lee isn't a very good story teller and there's a foolish reviewer who once gave Daniel Lee's previous film a 4 stars rating. While others don't share the same sentiments, I thought that even thought Daniel Lee previous film suffered from patchy story telling, he was effective in bringing out certain emotional resonance. However in 14 Blades, it was all about exotic locations, flashy costumes and characters designs with fancy weaponry but none of the emotion impacts that it was garnering for.

The bulk of 14 Blades took place in the desert area where the exotic Indian culture seems to be a prominent fixture. It provides a good excuse to dress good looking actors and actresses like Wu Chun and Zhao Wei up with Indian theme costumes. Those not in the modified Indian garb (Donnie Yen and Qi Yiwu) get fitted in funky imperial guards uniform that looks like an update from Three Kingdoms (Daniel Lee's previous film). The cast all looked specially good through the lens of 14 Blades' DOP. Donnie Yen and Wu Chun look great with their well tone body (specially Donnie Yen with his tattoo buff up chest ) and Vicky Zhao look so attractively luring in this that it made my friend add another one more star to his rating for this movie.

The 14 Blades weaponry comes in a box which brought back memories of those days of collecting Manhua (chinese comics) that comes wit their own various mini weapons collectible. With many compartments and devices, the 14 Blades and the various other fancy weaponry gadgets in this movie could easily be marketed as toy.

But what about the story and the fighting (since this is a movie starring Donnie Yen)?

This time round, Daniel Lee's uneven and inept story telling skills had once again rear it's ugly head. There were many moments that 14 Blades were trying to be engaging and emotional but there's a hollow lifeless ring to it. Characters were spouting emotional and gungho dialogues but it lacks a strong build up or performance to engage the viewers tear duct.

For example, Donnie Yen's Qinglong supposedly had it rough during his childhood training as the elite secret agents and the selection process had numb his humanity. Similar to the Spartan kids training program in 300, it was done in short flashback sequences but while one impress with it's violent imagery, 14 Blades left ones with a sense of indifference. The characters were badly constructed and superficially performed. Another example would be Qi Yiwu's performance as a duplicitous traitor of the Jinyiwei (the elite secret agents). It was inefficient, unmemorable and it felt like an unnecessary add on to the whole mix. A far cry compared to Jacky Cheung's performance as the Eunuch's lackey in Swordsman.

The story telling was another mess. For most part of the show, it wasn't clear what was Qinglong's mission after he been betrayed and wounded. It took about 3/4 of the movie before we were told of his grandplan to right the wrong and saving the day. It also didn't help when the movie forcefully insert emotional flashback moments into scenes which we could swear that there weren't time for. It just felt inept and desperately patchy.

Last but not least, the fight scenes. While there are moments in which Kate Tsui floats around in spectacular manner (aided by special effects) to illustrate her amazing fast kungfu, Donnie Yen lacks a capable opponent to do a proper choreographed fight scene with. As most of the actors in 14 Blades are without the kungfu background, the fight sequences had to be aided by fast editing, stunt double, unnatural wire works and special effects. It just felt like another tired messy choreographed that populated most Asian Kungfu flicks.

14 Blades had a little something for the masses. For fans of Wu Chun, Zhao Wei and Donnie Yen, they can have their filled of eye candy. For comics and toy collect or even those who are interested in weaponry, they might find pleasure in checking out the various fancy weapons in 14 Blades. But for those looking for a solid period martial arts film that comes with a memorable storyline, 14 Blades would have very little to offer.

Movie Rating:

(Attractive, exotic and fancy Blade but when it comes to story and character buildup, it was a pretty blunt Blade)

Review by Richard Lim Jr


. Mulan (2009)

. An Empress And the Warriors (2008)

. Painted Skin (2008)

. Three Kingdoms (2008)

. Seven Swords (2005)

. House of Flying Daggers (2004)


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