In Ming Dynasty China, when the Imperial Court is taken over by evil eunuch Jia (Kar-Ying Law), Qinglong [Green Dragon] (Donnie Yen) the best of the Emperor's specially trained, brutal secret intelligence and enforcement guard, the Jinyiwei, masters of the 14 Blades, is assigned to acquire the list of those still loyal to the Emperor. But unbeknown to Quinglong the Jinyiwei have fallen under the control of Jia; he is betrayed, wounded, barely escaping with his life. As the most wanted man in the land, Quinglong must seek out and rally the loyalists to rise up against the Jia and restore the Emperor to power - and overcome his former brethren, the Jinyiwei, whose terrible routines he no longer wishes to be a part of. The beautiful Qiao Hua (Zhao Wei) teams up with Quinglong in his quest as their relationship finally blossoms.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Nominated for Best Action Choreography (Huan-Chiu Ku) and Best Sound Design (Ken Wong, Phyllis Cheng) in the 2010 Hong Kong Film Awards, 14 Blades announces itself as something of an epic - both as story and as film, with a grand tale and rich imagery. But the fast moving story is a tad hard to follow - perhaps it's easier for those who don't have to read the subtitles.
Striking to look at, with some terrific lighting camerawork by Tony Cheung, there are echoes of film noir in the image making with hard contrasts and plenty of deep shadows - and lots of blue. The production design, however, is Imperial Chinese, and the 14 blades of the title are works of great craftsmanship, in a deadly sort of way.
The film is a martial arts romantic military and espionage drama. Have I left anything out? Performances are energetic to say the least, although I would prefer to see action shot in a still frame so there is a sense of who is where doing what.
A beautiful femme fatale, lots of slo mo and clever, high velocity wire work add plenty of exotica to the mood, and for fans of the genre the film is everything it promises. And for me, I enjoy the fabulously interesting faces of the many supports, both young and ancient - as well as the pretty face of Zhao Wei, the romantic lead girl.
And then there is that extended final battle, followed by a romantic coda; what more can you ask for before a decent yum cha dinner.
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14 BLADES (M)
CAST: Donnie Yen, Zhao Wei, Chun Wu, Kate Tsui, Yuwu Qi, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, Damian Lau
PRODUCER: Susanna Tsang
DIRECTOR: Daniel Lee
SCRIPT: Daniel Lee, Abe Kwong
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tony Cheung
MUSIC: Henry Lai
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Cyrus Ho
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Canberra: December 2, 2010; Sydney: December 9, 2010
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