“Epic Jackie Chan Chinese Period Action Picture”
Toplining Jackie Chan and with substantial roles for both John Cusack and Adrian Brody, big budget Chinese action epic DRAGON BLADE gets a UK DVD & Blu-ray release courtesy of Signature.
It’s around 50BC, and Jackie Chan’s Silk Road Protection Squad gets framed for smuggling gold and sent to work in a labour camp. John Cusack’s Roman legion turns up having been framed for treason and together they form an allegiance that allows them to rebuild a city (Jackie’s gang’s punishment) and go after evil Roman Adrian Brody (who framed Cusack). Eventually all the allies of China have to gather together to defeat the evil Romans leading to an epic climax.
DRAGON BLADE is a big budget Chinese historical action picture that was a big hit in its country of origin. If you’re planning on watching it it’s probably worth bearing all that in mind, because I suspect the film-makers concentrated more on making the battle sequences epic (they are excellent), getting the fight sequences right (they’re pretty good as well) while ensuring any relevant bits of Chinese history were correct (I can’t vouch for that but one hopes so).
The reason I’m saying this is because to Western eyes there’s actually quite a bit wrong with DRAGON BLADE, but in a world where we have movies like Paul W S Anderson’s preposterous but utterly entertaining POMPEII I’m not sure how valid such criticisms are. Certainly the opening of the movie is pretty incoherent, and throughout there are jumps in the narrative that don’t seem to get explained at all. In fact, it feels more like a severely edited and compressed version of a five hour epic than a film that was intended to last under two hours.
As well as a fair bit of bafflement, people who get upset by this sort of thing will probably get their knickers in a twist that it seems to take evil Adrian Brody about a day to march his army the 8000 miles from Rome to the site of the action. But then they’ll also be the ones to point out that Adrian’s scheme wouldn’t have worked because Romans didn’t inherit titles the way this film thinks they did. If that, or the idea of a flock of eagles turning up at a crucial point to save the day is all a bit too daft for you, you’d probably better stay away.
The rest of us, however, can have a ball with this as long as we leave our brains at the door, not question anything too much (or at all, actually) and simply revel in the fights, which are great, the battles, which are great, and some of the locations and production design, which yet again are all great. DRAGON BLADE is incoherent, inaccurate and a bit inane. It’s also majestic, sweeping and epic.
DRAGON BLADE is out on DVD & Blu-ray from Signature Entertainment on 14th March 2016