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14 Blades - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Jin yi wei

China 2010

Wuxia, Action

Daniel Lee

Donnie Yen
Vicki Zhao Wei
Wu Chun
Kate Tsui
Qi Yuwu
Law Kar-Ying
Wu Ma
Sammo Hung
Damian Lau
Fung Hak-On

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14 Blades

Story: Qinlong (Donnie Yen) is the leader of the Jinyiwei, a secret organisation that works directly for the emperor. One day Qinlong is assigned to get the imperial seal back. Only later does he find out that he is used by powers which want to dethrone the emperor. From that day on he is chased after and his brothers are killed. As he is injured Qinlong seeks the help of the Justice Escort Agency. Eventually, he is forced to take the daughter of the agency's leader, Qiao Hua (Vicki Zhao Wei), hostage since no one is willing to help him as soon as they find out that Qinlong is a wanted man. At first Xuanwu (Qi Yuwu), who betrayed the Jinyiwei, is looking for him, but the prince who wants to dethrone the emperor and lives in exile sends his deadly daughter Tuo Tuo (Kate Tsui) after him. However, Qinlong has nothing to lose anymore and doesn't just want to get back the seal, but also wants to restore his honor. Trying to achieve his goal he gets unexpected help by a desert thief (Wu Chun) and Qiao Hua.

Review: "14 Blades" is a wuxia flick that apparently got overlooked by many and unjustly so. The movie has one certain advantage and that's its nostalgia factor. Soon you feel reminded of similar Hong Kong flicks from the 80s and 90s. Nowadays filmmakers work a lot with bad CGI effects and gaudy sets. "14 Blades" goes back to the genre's roots and offers more wire-fu and old school sets. That certainly is appealing, along with the wuxia-typical characters and inventive weapons, and also makes you forget that the movie is otherwise all in all somewhat too lengthy, featuring a generic love story and shallowly written main characters. Especially the screenplay is oftentimes going nowhere and like the protagonists in the desert doesn't know where it is heading to.

14 Blades - Film Screenshot 11

Director Daniel Lee has already proven with "Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon" that he can deliver solid work. Let's just forget about his "Dragon Squad", though... The appeal of "14 Blades" has its source in the story. The heroes and villains are wandering on the path of "Jiang Hu", where honor and chivalry are the most important virtues. Of course there is also room for some fantasy elements in this world. Thus, Tuo Tuo can teleport herself into her cape and out of it, and particularly the weapons are created with a keen eye for details or are copied very well from other movies. For instance, there is the chain sword in the shape of a snake or the boomerang blades of the desert thief as well as the hero's 14 blades, of course.

14 Blades - Film Screenshot 12

However, the blades that give the movie its name aren't even shown in their entirety and they aren't put into the story's focus even the slightest, although they stand as some nice gadgets reminding us of Batman. Concerning the protagonists you will also find merely rough sketches of characters. Donnie Yen ("The Monkey King", "Wu Xia") surely won't win any award for best actor with his stoic performance, but this time it fits his role. Zhao Wei ("Painted Skin: The Resurrection", "Mulan") may try to carry the love story on her own, but since she is obviously typecast as so many other times before she can't really stand out. Strangely enough this makes the supporting roles stick with you more. Kate Tsui ("Eye in the Sky") as the mysterious warrior with supernatural powers even stands as the first female opponent in a showdown in ages.

It's also individuals like the leader of the desert thieves that are simply fun to watch, although they are a bit archetypical. The locations in the desert and the several inns as well as the towns there also seem a lot more authentic than some cgi-generated cities. And not only the locations will remind you of "Dragon Gate Inn" etc. Also, all of the desert sand and fog wafting through the movie sets will remind you of the good old wuxia flicks. Concerning the directing there are also some pecularities to make out that you are only used to see from movies of a much older date like crooked camera angles. Thus, its even the more a shame that the middle part is dragging on too much and is mainly composed of wandering around disoriented in the direction of a destination that isn't really clear.

14 Blades - Film Screenshot 13

In the end it may become obvious what the story revolves around, but coherence is scarce. Instead the action is exciting to look at. We may not get a display of classical martial arts, for this the choreography isn't elaborate enough, but we get some pretty inventive wire-fu with a lot of momenutm going for it, making the fights stand out with a more fantasy-heavy substance to it of course. However, as already stated it's this substance that is lacking when it comes to the story and partly also when looking at the characters. Apart from that the movie also should have been edited to a more compact running time. This leaves us with parts in "14 Blades" that are rather mediocre, like those of the drama worked in, but this shouldn't put off those who are into the wuxia genre. Its recognition value, nice ideas concerning the fights as well as the fantastic movie sets manage to create a feeling of nostalgia that will make the movie seem better to genre fans than it maybe actually is - but who cares, as long as it's a fun ride?!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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