14 Blades is a mixed bag which could have been so much cooler without the silly fantasy elements. It’s beautifully shot with great visuals and a truly epic score. Not one of Yen’s best films but still entertaining and surprisingly moving.
Plot: A kung fu thriller set during the Ming Dynasty and centered on a secret service agent (Donnie Yen) in the emperor’s court who is betrayed and then hunted by his colleagues.
Review: It took a long time for 14 Blades to finally hit these shores and it was worth the wait; although not Donnie Yen’s best film, there is enough martial arts action and stunning visuals to make it worth picking up. The Blu-ray is crisp quality and the scenes in the desert look especially impressive. 14 Blades has a very epic feel to it and the cinematography is first rate.
Yen as always gives a fantastic performance as General Qinlong, one of the jinyiwei, the government’s secret police. Qinlong is conflicted with the guilt of killing his brother when he was younger but also has to deal with being betrayed by his own men. He ends up on the run and the story becomes rather predictable and convoluted.
Yen has such an expressive face and I think he’s one of the best actors as well as martial artists in the business today.
The acting by the entire cast in general is excellent and there is genuine chemistry between Yen and Zhao Wei who plays Qiao Hua. Theirs is a love that isn’t meant to last though as Qinlong doesn’t plan on surviving his final mission; his main goal is to reclaim his dignity.
The score by Henry Lai is one of the highlights and it has an almost Western feel to it in places, but it really helps to create this cinematic world.
Now on to my big gripe with the film: Tuo Tuo and all the wire-fu; I’ve never liked wire work as I say all the time. It takes you out of a fight scene because they are performing inhuman and impossible feats. That’s not to say the action isn’t impressive; it is and there is plenty to enjoy but certain moments just annoyed me.
Kate Tsui was amazing as Tuo Tuo and I love to see a decent female villain but my problem was that she kept turning into a ghost or something and floating around. The fantasy elements could have and should have been removed and the film would have worked so much better. If Qinlong and Tuo Tuo had just had a spectacular martial arts fight at the end without her floating about, then it would have been so much more engaging. Like I said though, she is a decent villain and you really hate her.
It’s the kind of movie that leaves you with nothing, with no humour and it’s pretty sad by the end too; but that just means you care about the characters and their struggles.
Overall, 14 Blades is a mixed bag which could have been so much cooler without the silly fantasy elements. It’s beautifully shot with great visuals and a truly epic score. Not one of Yen’s best films but still entertaining and surprisingly moving.