(c) 2015 Sparkle Roll Cultural Media / Huayi Brothers / Shanghai Film Group / Lionsgate / Visualiser Films / Bejing Cultural Assets
Daniel Lee's Dragon Blade which opened in China and Hong Kong for the 2015 Chinese New Year was China's most expensive film costing a cool $65 Million US DOLLARS , a mega budget when you consider Jackie Chan's CZ12 cost just $26 Million US DOLLARS to make.
Now I originally wrote this review upon viewing the original edit of the film back in 2015 , but was waiting to view the International print before publishing the review , well over five years later I have got round to watching the International print of the film and here is my thoughts on the film.
Set in the Han Dynasty it focuses on the stories of the Silk road and how after being set up for a smuggling crime Huo An a commander in the Protection Squad for the Western Regions ( Jackie Chan) is sent to the Wild Geese Gate to help oversee the rebuilding of the Gate after destruction and to help maintain peace between the thirty six warring regions of which the Gate is central to.
Being sent to the Gate is seen as a death sentence as the frontier town is in the desert and the hard labour forced on it's occupants often lead to death .
But when a Roman legion turns up led by General Lucius ( John Cusack) who is escorting a young Roman Prince who is the heir to the Parthian Empire whom come across the Wild Geese Gate on route.
Tired and in need of food and drink Lucius first thinks he can just fight his way into the Gate , but after his men capture some of the Gates leaders it is down to Huo An to fight for the honour of the Gate . A one on one battle ensues between Huo An and Lucius.
But a impending sand storm and a ill Prince forces Lucius to accept Huo An's offer of shelter if his men come in peace without malice.
In truth Lucius is on the run with the Prince who has been the target of assassination by his Consul and older Brother Tiberius ( Adrien Brody) , the young Prince has been poisoned which has led to him becoming blind.
After sharing their stories the two warriors discover they have much in common , but the Han Government has given the Silk road workers only fifteen days to rebuild the gate or they will all be executed, with little hope to be able to do it Lucius decides he will help along with his men , they will bring their Roman ideas together to help rebuild the gate .
This first part of the film builds the relationships between our warring parties and how in a perfect world they realise they could live in peace.
With some great displays of training sequences from Huo An and his squad and Battle formations from the Roman legion it makes for some great viewing , giving Jackie some good fight action scenes which will please his fans.
The film also has some good drama as we get to know our characters , maybe some better then others and while yes the relationship between Huo An and his wife is never really elaborated on it does provide a base for the characters love of life and peace , something Jackie always tries to put across in his films.
Normally Jackie sings the theme songs to his films , here he actually fronts a patriotic anthem with the whole gate joining in. in reciprocation the young Roman Prince sings a anthem which enthuses his Legion to burst into song ..
It may seem your watching a Bollywood film for a moment , but it's just one scene and it's one which iterates the two parties loyalties.
For the type of film some may be thinking it's a little to light hearted , but Jackie's films are usually youngster friendly and there's no reason for that to change .
But this is not a film directed or written by Jackie Chan, it's a Daniel Lee film and the film is about to take a much darker turn ..
When Tiberius and his legion is seen on route to the silk road Huo An and Lucius send a reconnaissance team to the Parthian region for help , but they are surprised when Tiberius and his legion find them .
With Tiberius and his legion on route it seems the Silk road warriors are out numbered. Tiberius takes the gate and imprisons Lucius and his men, he vows to spare the lives of the others if they deliver Huo An to him.
Reluctant to do so they see it the only way , but Huo An thanks them for their patriotism and loyalty to him , he instils in them one last piece of hope in which Huo An will escape and bring a end to Tiberius's evil doings.
Daniel Lee may not be historically correct with this film , but then his previous historic films have not been so either ,but they are entertaining , something I feel some critics have forgotten about.
Dragon Blade is entertainment on a grand scale , it delivers in the battle scenes to no end with cleverly designed battles with each scene bringing to light another great technique or formation of battle.
Also the main battles seem frantic with lots of players engaging in confrontation , your often watching a fight in the main frame only to see another couple of cast members In the back ground performing another spectacular feat.
Each of the performers delivers a great performance in their own right , and Adrien Brody really delivers as Tiberius who is hell bent on ruling at any cost.
Korean actor and KPOP star Choi Si Won plays Yinpo another leader of one of the factions in the region ,he is also a friend of Huo An.
Starring in her second film with Jackie Chan after debuting in Jackie's Little Big Soldier in 2010 actress Lin Peng plays Moon part of a tribal group who Huo An has a confrontation with but ends up being his ally after Huo An unknowingly becomes betrothed to her.
John Cusack who has a large role in the film does some great action in the swordplay stakes both in his battles with Huo An and with Tiberius and his men. Even though he is doubled for a few intricate scenes I noticed with the fight with Jackie.
The film actually starts in Modern day with a group of archaeologists in search of the lost city of Regum , Known as Wild Geese Gate, it explains how history dictates that such a place existed and how the Roman empire was evident on the silk road.
Our two archaeologists are played by Vanness Wu and Karena Lam. The film actually ends with the two actually having envisioned what you have just seen.
I don't quite see what this modern day element does for the film if anything , unlike in say Jackie's earlier film The Myth where the film switched between modern day and a historic setting.
There's no doubt in my mind that this is one of the most accomplished films Jackie has made , I loved CZ12 for what it was a last hurrah for Jackies stunts and fun filled shenanigans.
Even Jackie's ''1911'' was epic film which should be seen by any fans of his work, it may not be his best in offering in all out action, it's political point may be to imposing for some and the fact that it was not historically correct ,but then if you want historically correct films don't watch a Jackie Chan film.
Dragon Blade has to be watched for what it is , the truths behind what happened 2000 years ago is never a clear cut case ,but after seeing some peoples comments on the film about historically incorrect errors I can rightly say if you read these peoples views who rip into a film because something is not as they assumed it should be then I hope you have the sense to make your own mind up and not ignore the film because of some miserable amateur critic .
There was one guys view I read on IMDB who lambasted the film and gave it a bad rating because it showed a building technique not invented at the time the film was supposed to be set in. Sad is not the word.
I have found that many have viewed the film who are not Jackie Chan fans, some have never seen a Jackie Chan film , they have seen the film because of John Cusack or Adrien Brody starring. They also have this misconception that this is a Hollywood movie and that it should play as such.
Well it's not it's a China / Hong Kong film in co -operation with Shanghai Film group and they should be proud to have produced such a film.
The film in China alone has broken box office records and taken as of March 2015 over US$120 million in China alone, nearly double it's budget . And that's with out any other regions.
The crew and cast endured hardships when filming in the desert with extreme heat , sand storms ,dehydration and all the usual traits of making a film in unpredictable weather and locations.
Dragon blade is a fine film , is it Jackie Best yet?
It's a hard call, you can not really compare Jackie's hardcore action films from the 80's and 90's to his more up to date features ,you have to take them as different entities , remember Jackie was sixty one when he shot this .
In the same vain you would not compare films Jackie made in the 70's before Snake in the Eagles Shadow. They may not be Jackie's best but you can not deny watching Shaolin Wooden Men, Fearless Hyena or Dragon Fist.
We all Know Jackie's golden age was in the 80's and 90's , we wont see films like Project A ,Dragons Forever again.
But Dragon Blade is better then anything Jackie has made state side and proves that even in his later years he can still throw that shape.
When the film released stateside in Septmeber 2015 the film was trimmed by removing the modern day scenes , which in all honesty is not a big loss. This cut the running time down from it's original 127 Minutes to 103 minutes .
Fans of Little Big Soldier or The Myth will love this one.
Jackie's back and he's fighting for everyone in this one.
Original Review : May 2015
Updated : March 2021
Review by Sertes Nake
Dragon Blade on Blu-ray
Having recently purchased the Blu-ray version of the film I was hoping it might shed more insight into the film , as via features.
Other then a a cleaner image due to Blu-ray and a full English dub soundtrack as well as the original the blu-ray is pretty threadbare.
Shame as I am sure there's a lot to tell about the making of this film and I am sure the Asian DVD's and Blu-rays have those.
Considering I bought the blu-ray with two other Jackie Chan Blu -rays of American features that have loads of features . To say I was slightly dissapointed by the Blu Ray realease of Dragon Blade is a understatement. You might as well purchase the cheaper DVD version as it's more or less the same and as most modern day Players upscale DVD now you might as well save a few pennies.
Maybe in the future I will delve into getting the Asain versions to see how they compare.
Director – Daniel Lee
Writer – Daniel Lee
Produced / Action Director / Starring – Jackie Chan – as Huo An
Starring – John Cusack – as General Lucius
Adrien Brody - Consul Tiberius
Lin Peng – Moon
Mika Wang – Xiu Qing - Ho An's Wife
Choi Siwon – Yinpo
Jozef Waite – as Publius -Roman Prince