More than four years after it opened in Asia, Daniel Lee's 14 Blades is finally coming to America, marking the return of Donnie Yen as a martial arts hero.
Right off hand, I have no idea why it took so long for the movie to hit the U.S. market, and I have no idea why Radius/TWC decided that this particular movie was the right one to push out now. I'm sure it had nothing at all to do with the recent, entirely unexpected success of Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer from the same company (?!).
In any event, the movie will open in a small number of theaters on Friday, August 22, ahead of a more usual home video release about two weeks later. As it happens, we published two reviews of the movie in 2010.
Stefan was first out of the gate.
It's about time Donnie Yen made an impact yet again in the fantasy wuxia-pian genre, given the rather recent dismal films with Painted Skin (where he only had a supporting role), An Empress and the Warriors, and Tsui Hark's Seven Swords back in 2005.
Most of us went ballistic with his more modern action roles ranging from SPL to Ip Man, and his 14 Blades character of Qing Long (Green Dragon, thanks to those mean looking tattoos adorned all over his upper torso) here looks quite set to become yet another memorable role similar to his morally ambiguous one in Bodyguards and Assassins.
It's far from being the perfect film, especially with unbelievably incoherent flashbacks and the going overboard with explosions (of the RPG type), but Donnie Yen once again shows that when it comes to the fisticuffs, he still has a lot to offer, despite the story's potential that had it go off the blocks strongly, only to fizzle out before the end in a case of severe narrative burn-out.
You can read Stefan's entire review right here.
Shortly thereafter, Niels Matthijs filed another review. Here's his paragraph describing the film's plot:
The story behind 14 Blades is a pretty simple one. Yen is the leader of an elite group of government agents. He is framed during one of his missions and barely manages to escape. He sets out again to finish his mission and to uncover the conspiracy against him. Most of the storytelling is done during the first half of the film, after that there is little time for such silly stories, as the action and acrobatics take center stage.
It's good to see this kind of fast-paced martial arts cinema being revived. I didn't mind the more gracious kind of the past 10 years either, but it did lack some of the more macho elements of fighting action. Yen is perfect in his role, the choreography is splendid and creative. Add some neat visuals and the results is a perfect update of the martial arts genre, making me look forward to the next film of this caliber.
You can read Niels' entire review right here.
So there you have it: two positive reviews from two writers who are well-versed in Asian action cinema. My conclusion: 14 Blades is worth seeking out, especially in a theater.