Viewed – 11 March 2011 Online Rental
I have been out of the asian action cinema scene for a while now, having been heavily into all things kung fu, martial arts and Hong Kong related some years ago. Yet of late I’ve had a yearning to rediscover the movies I used to love so much, and with a somewhat resurgence in their popularity thanks to the prolific output of martial arts superstar Donnie Yen, now was as good a time as any to get back into them.
Donnie Yen plays Qinglong, a secret service agent during the Ming Dynasty who has sworn an oath to protect the empire using his 14 specialist blades passed down to him during a sacred ceremony. When the emperor’s Imperial Seal is stolen and Qinglong set up for the crime, he sets out to find the real culprit, kicking plenty of ass along the way. Now this is a very loose join-the-dots interpretation of the story as to be honest I found it very hard to follow. It’s complicated and vague at the same time, and with some poor subtitles for this viewing, keeping up with who was who and what was what was an uphill struggle. Yet Donnie Yen is excellent as the deadly warrior who discovers a softer side to himself when he kidnaps a young woman (Zhao Wei) so a group of escorts will help him in his mission, and finds himself falling for her. Directed by Daniel Lee (Black Mask, Dragon Squad) this well shot and attractive looking movie is filled with breathtaking action, with some excellent sword fighting, wire-assisted acrobatics and imaginative, cool looking characters. The main villain, a Medusa inspired femme fatale is wonderful too, and an easy match for a hard-as-nails Donnie Yen.
It’s sad then that the surrounding story is told in such a fragmented and incoherent manner, as otherwise this would have been an easy recommendation. As it stands, if you love asian action movies, this still delivers … but the poor story telling lets it down.
Verdict: 3 /5