Movie review: Set in ancient China, this epic serves up good-old-fashioned widescreen spectacle. Jackie Chan, John Cusack and Adrien Brody star. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
“Dragon Blade” serves up good, old-fashioned widescreen spectacle in lavish helpings. This is a picture filled with grand cavalry charges where hundreds of elaborately costumed warriors pound across vast desert landscapes, filling the air with dust and battle cries.
This being a movie produced by and starring Jackie Chan, it’s also packed with martial-arts action where leaping, gyrating swordsmen thrust and parry in single combat duels while opposing armies look on in awe.
Now in his early 60s, Chan has been slowed by age, but his physical feats are still impressive and his choreography of the action scenes is powerfully dynamic.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Dragon Blade,’ with Jackie Chan, John Cusack, Adrien Brody. Written and directed by Daniel Lee. 103 minutes. Rated R for bloody violence. In English and Mandarin, with English subtitles. Varsity.
Set in ancient western China during the Han Dynasty, the plot pits Asian armies against an invading Roman legion under the command of a truly hissable villain named Gen. Tiberius (Adrien Brody, sneering) whose deliberate blinding of his sweet-faced kid brother is only the first, but hardly the least, of his many despicable deeds.
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The boy is rescued by a heroic Roman general, Lucius, played by a bearded John Cusack. With Tiberius in hot pursuit, Lucius flees to the Silk Road region where he makes common cause with Chan’s character, a peace-loving commander named Huo An, to try to battle the baddie.
Written and directed by Hong Kong filmmaker Daniel Lee, “Dragon Blade” is a solidly constructed epic that, despite its many battle scenes, has a strong message of pacifism and unity.
At the start, Chan’s character exhorts everyone to “stop fighting.” Peace momentarily breaks out when Lucius and Huo’s men, in a brilliantly staged sequence, cooperate to rebuild a ruined city. The moment is fleeting, and Huo must finally fight Tiberius to save the day.
Victory comes at a great and painful price, which makes this action epic unexpectedly poignant.