In my book, Donnie Yen is the most underrated actor slash martial artist working today. I mean, for me, he is more badass than Jet Li in his prime and his gaunt figure and face complexion made it easy for him to play the role of a wounded hero. Even so, “14 Blades” is a mess. It was too stylish, too over-the-top in dramatization, with uninteresting characters, even bordering to ridiculous for some.
Qing Long (Yen) is the leader of a fierce group of assassin’s that acted under the King. Their loyalties were for the King only and they did whatever the King told them to do. Even killing. Well, especially killing. The film’s first minutes (or I’d say chapter) solely dedicated to provide a backdrop story to this film. If you plan to see this film, pay attention to it because most of what is going to happen in this film, the main story of this film, was depicted during this time. In short, the film was a typical wuxia. Betrayal, greed for power, Stockholm syndrome romance, and lots of duels.
From the first chapter, I had a rather bad vibe from the film. In my opinion, the first chapter was too dense, and too much is happening. This, in turn, had left the rest of the film dragged its tail lazily. Merely a vehicle for a duel after another, for the blossoming of said Stockholm syndrome, for caricature characters to made their respective appearances for of course, a yet another duel. In between, this film, as perhaps often seen in the similar wuxia films, filled its dialog with life lessons. Specific for this one, the lesson mostly consists of choices and its various derivatives.
Donnie Yen is at his usual gaunt self. Mostly drawn to himself, it is fairly clear that Donnie Yen’s best roles are the ones that more or less the variation of this very kind of character. So I’ve got no complaint on him, really. The rest of the casts however, are considerably in a lesser quality plus, Daniel Lee’s method of picture taking is kinda monotonous. It doesn’t take a very long time for me to notice his preference of taking picture of his characters and even if it was meant to gave a dramatic effect and vibe, it grows old real quick. Oh, and that flashback stuffs? Boring.
Production wise, this film is well done. Great costumes, great settings, which more than several occasions gave a strong vibe of Western films which in my book, is never a bad thing. Even so, overall, it doesn’t gave enough distractions for me to notice its many pit falls and short comings.
My rating: * / **** The dense first chapter of the film promises excitement. Instead, what I got was some over dramatization speech about choices in life between the duels. Donnie Yen still packs a punch, sure, but he should be paired with an actual martial artist that poses a real challenge. Not some beauty queen pretending to be one. It’s a hard sell, and I’m not buying. Not even with the well done production values.