14 Blades

Rising star Donnie Yen's latest flick, 14 Blades, directed by director Daniel Lee (Three Kingdom), disappoints martial arts fans despite its exotic film sets, interesting costumes and a big portion of time allocated to fighting scenes.

Suave as usual, Donnie Yen plays Qing Long (Green Dragon), head of elite Ming Dynasty imperial guards Jing Yi Wei (Brocaded Robe Guards), which exists to serve the emperor. In a plot by evil eunuch Jia to take over the imperial court, he is betrayed by one of his trusted aides, Xuan Wu (Qi Yi Wu) and loses the emperor's seal of authority. Qing Long then sets out to recover the lost jade seal as well as his dignity. En route, he meets love interest Zhao Wei and takes her hostage in exchange for the help of her escort father (Wu Ma).

Invincible villain Tuo Tuo (Kate Tsui), which literally means "strip" in mandarin, comes along the way. Needless to say, she strips as she executes her kung fu to illustrate the amazing speed at which she moves about. At first view, the fighting sequence seemed almost graceful and even acceptable… that is, until medusa-haired Tsui decides to give an annoying war-cry, or rather, war-shriek.

And of course, there is much awaited Wu Zun, who plays Judge of the Dessert where the showdown is staged and whose outfit bears much resemblance to a certain captain Jack Sparrow… Like poor Kate Tsui, Wu Zun's image is much tarnished here with an embarrassing shout in an awkward accent: "Fei Yin Jia Dao (The Sky Eagles arrives!)"

While most of the fighting scenes were fast paced and set in a good variety of backdrops from tea houses to deserts to forests, there seemed to be a lack of a worthy opponent for Yen. Most fighting scenes were against Tsui - with a heavy hand on CG effects - or so quickly edited that leaves hardly much to be seen. Fans of Yen will be glad to know that his few signature moves will be featured though.

All in all, 14 Blades promises much but delivers little. Unless you are willing to pay just to see Yen's few classic moves on big screen or simply to support your favourite artiste, we would say wait for the DVD.

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