Review: Dragon Blade
PLOT: In western China, 48 BC, an unlikely partnership is formed between a Roman general and a member of the Silk Road Protection Squad. Together, they must stop a tyrannical madman who is willing to kill his family for his own prosperity.
REVIEW: When a movie is so bad its good it is easy to forgive many of its flaws. At least you had fun right? In the new Jackie Chan historical feature DRAGON BLADE, there is quite a bit of bad and very little actual fun. In fact, it is mostly a forgettable excursion of an action film with a few interesting East meets West ideas behind it. Unfortunately, it is so sloppily put together that you will have a tough time investing in this painfully dull adventure. This is the type of film that disappears from your membrane the second you leave the theatre. Although I do seem to remember the same shot of the films main villain - played by Adrien Brody - appearing over and over again. Did this guy work more than a day on this flick?
The story revolves around a group of do-gooders under the Chinese government called the Silk Road Protection Squad. Their mission, to maintain and promote peace and stop the frequent battles that occur on and around Silk Road - an ancient network of trade and cultural transmission routes. After their captain, Huo An (Jackie Chan), helps to avert a battle between the Indians and the Huns, rumor of corruption plagues the group. Because of this, the entire team is sentenced to the construction of the Goose Gate, a ruined fortress. They are given a limited time to complete the assignment, and if they fail, they will face cruel punishment.
Help soon arrives in the form of a would be enemy. A Roman legion shows up ready to fight for supplies, yet the two sides agree to work together to complete construction. After forming a bond, Huo An and a general by the name of Lucius (John Cusack) - who happens to be protecting a young boy named Publius - gain each others trust and attempt to protect all sides from Tiberius (Adrien Brody). The vicious Roman has killed his own father, and sets his sights on the young Publius, his own brother, so that he will face no obstacles to become a leader. All of this leads to a battle that will affect all of those who are connected to Silk Road.
You have to give credit to writer/director Daniel Lee for his attempts at connecting East Asian cinema with a massive Hollywood blockbuster. And at times, the battles are impressively staged. On the rare occasion, some may even say exciting. What the film fails to do however is seamlessly blend the two styles together in an entertaining way. This historically based feature comes across as something that would be presented on the History Channel as opposed to the big screen. There are way too many laughable moments in this all-too serious presentation. In between the doldrums is an unexceptional action flick that suffers from weak storytelling, as well as miscast actors nearly sleepwalking through their performances.
Speaking of performances, out of the entire cast, it is Jackie Chan as Huo An that fares the best. The action star is quite sympathetic, as well as believably heroic. As far as the American cast, John Cusack seems to be out of place in this ancient tale. At least he was able to present a couple of good moments as he and Chan work well enough together. And then there is the Academy Award winning Brody. Clearly he didnt work a ton on the film as they seem to recycle much of his time on-screen. Unfortunately, when he is on-screen he seems to be bored of the material. His Tiberius is a weak villain that rarely registers more than oh yeah, he is in this as opposed to any real sense of dread.
DRAGON BLADE (aka TIAN JIANG XIONG SHI) has done especially well in China. Its popularity is certainly helped by Jackie Chan. And while there is some serious talent behind it, it is a mess of movie that fails to deliver. The script is dismal and some of the headlining talent involved are terribly miscast. If you are a fan of the director and Jackie Chan, you may find some satisfaction here, but keep your expectations low. Aside from some unintentional humor, this is a bloated and boring historical adventure, with a small handful of thrills. This blade is much too dull.