When one sees an assorted cast list of Jackie Chan, John Cusack and Adrien Brody, it’s perfectly natural to suspect a disaster of biblical proportions. But if there’s one thing I’ll say about Dragon Blade (Written and directed by Daniel Lee), it’s that it’s not a complete and utter car crash. That might not sound like much of a compliment, but it’s important to establish just how awful this could have been. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still pretty atrocious.
Based on true events in China, 48 BC, leader of a Protection Squad of the Western Regions, Huo An (Chan), joins forces with a Roman general, Lucius (Cusack), to rebuild Goose Gate and defend the Silk Road from a total bastard called Tiberius (Brody). That plot is incomprehensible most of the time, thanks to excessive flashbacks that pointlessly revisit events that happened just seconds earlier. It’s like a toddler’s messing around with the remote.
But Dragon Blade has a couple of redeeming qualities. The most surprising is its willingness to go a bit musical theatre (even though it’s not a musical). The point of these scenes is to promote peace between different races, but it’s done in the most hilariously camp fashion. At one point I was convinced it was heading towards a massive interracial orgy, but then people started getting stabbed in the face. And that brings me to the other quality: the fight scenes. Chan himself directs the action, and it’s clear from the cleverly choreographed interactions with the environment and mesmerising sword fights. They’re the best parts of the film, alongside his golden Super Mario armour.
I went into this more ignorant than your granddad in an immigration debate – a useful approach when formulating an honest opinion of a film – and sure enough, I was soon pulling ‘WTF’ faces. Not because of any immediate stink, but because I was expecting it to be a lot worse. That being said, all of the performances are trousers, and despite it being one of the most expensive Chinese language movies ever, some of the backdrops look like something I drew on Microsoft Paint in 1998.
Words by Chris Edwards
Written for Live for Films
Chris’s Twitter @CMEcontent