Let’s start off with: Dragon Blade is one of the most expensive Chinese films ever made and has a sense of grandeur around it. But, director Daniel Lee doesn’t make any attempt to simplify the language for the audience. He blends English and Mandarin in the film, with patriotic songs in Mandarin and Latin appearing out of nowhere.
Jackie Chan, the king of mixing action with comedy, plays Hoi An. Hoi is an emotionally charged commander of the Protection Squad, given the duty of maintaining peace on the historical trade region, Silk Road. Lucius, played by John Cusack, is a Roman General running away from the tyrant Tiberius, played by Adrian Brody. Lucius is protecting the blind heir Publius (Josef Waite). What follows next is a concoction of extreme long shots and battle scenes. The plot is simple: Tiberius wants to rule and control, while Hoi An and Lucius forge a rebellion. After Hoi is sent into exile to the Wild Geese Gate (eerily similar to the Great Wall of China), Lucius plans an assault on the frontier gate. A Troy-like sequence sword fight ensues between the two, with no clear winner. Hoi offers refuge, with the additional burden of completing the restoration of the wall in 15 days. Meanwhile, Tiberius has gathered his army and marches towards the gate.
The storyline of the movie seems decent, but as the film proceeds the problem sets in. The screenplay fails to hold the movie together. The dubbing looks forced and taken from Google Translate, with no real emotions being conveyed. Editing is a major letdown of the film, with simple cuts being used throughout. Shoot, assemble and edit seems to be the motto. Music is a powerful factor in the film, with original scores composed by the director himself. Costumes are admirable and apt for the time, with detailing given priority.
Chan has tried his best but fails to capture attention in the film. Cusack looks tired and worn out, with unnecessary focus on his character. Brody on the other hand looks every bit menacing, but sadly has less screen time in the movie.
Why Should You Watch This Film ?
Blurring the lines between fiction and history, this film sends out a message of peace and equality in resonant forces. The battle scenes are a visual treat with commendable camera work. It somehow remains with you even after leaving the cinema hall, despite its inconsistencies.
By Shlomoh Samuel