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Dragon Blade (2015)

Dragon Blade (2015) PosterIt may have been an enjoyable film but that is not to say it was good. Any attempt to summarise the plot will be woefully inadequate, much like describing the Mona Lisa as, “a picture of a person.” Never the less, despite the injustice that may be done the film, an attempt will be made.  

Huo An (Jackie Chan) is sent to a far piece of land for a crime that he did not commit, he encounters Lucius (John Cusack) a Roman who has fled with a gravely ill heir. They eventually become fast friends but once Tiberius (Adrienne Brody) arrives, battle breaks out as he seeks to kill the heir and become leader of Rome. (It was not clear if this was for control of the entirety of Rome or just a province.)

The action is very good, even if the cuts are a bit quick in places, this is likely to help hide any issues with some of the less experienced martial artists. Though most of the cast seemed very proficient and with Jackie Chan helping in the action, that is not surprising at all. The style of fighting employed seems to draw and be based very much on that employed in eastern cinema. While not historically accurate it does make for a better visual feast.

Also worthy of praise is the music, there is a blend of eastern and western, with music that could easily be separated into either camp, and while it did seem to be slightly cliche, throwing in a lamenting single singer over minimal accompaniment does make for a moving mood at sad points. Being a bit of a sucker for invigorating operatic numbers, the sprinkling of these throughout were also enjoyed. 

The style of acting that seems to have been requested was, over the top. Having been raised going to pantomimes exaggerated performances are nothing new, however Dragon Blade seems to have gone to pains to ensure that there is no risk of subtly. There was no real questions as to the motivations or drives of characters, the few whom we are really introduced to. This did mean the film was easy to follow and could have been watched without subtitles. While this larger this life style of acting undoubtably has a place, it did not feel natural in this film.

Anything claiming to be, “based on” or, “inspired by” true events does tend to obtain an automatic eye roll as inevitably the question is raised as to how far the film strays from the original and even if the records bare any resemblance to the final article. The inspiration for Dragon Blade, it is suggested, very loosely relied upon as the way things come together with an almost serendipitious manner casts this far beyond the realms of believable. There were points where ludicrous suggestions were thrown out, “I would not be surprised if they started singing now.” “It’s like Lord of the Rings, the Eagles are going to come and save the day.” “They’re going to have a pissing match about who can train the best.”  

It was a film that dreamed too big. There were numerous flashbacks to earlier moments in the film. To the point where it was highly noticeable and felt like the 127 minute run time was being further padded for no reason. The closest film that really seems apt to compare this to is the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, maybe not in sense of scale but the numerous characters, the back story that wanted to be shown and threads that the film wanted us to follow. Unfortunately this film appeared unable to fill its own run time without repeating so who knows what two films or even three, would have looked like.  

Maybe a directors cut could help this film, trim it down and remove some of the ancillary elements. An example of story line which could be cut without any loss is the one which book marks the actual tale of Huo An, some people out looking for this lost city in the middle of a snow storm in some BMWs. This felt like it was added in solely so that some money from BMW could be obtained.  It added nothing and just dragged out the film.

Really, if you want a film you can watch, laugh at (maybe with, they have to of been in on the joke) then Dragon Blade will do. However, if you are after anything particularly serious. Look for something else. It’s not going to win any oscars and if you miss it, no great loss.