At one time or another, we have all been there- unable to sleep, flipping idly through the channels and creating our own story from the bits and fragments we catch between channel flips, until we come across a show or movie that makes us go, "Huh... this might be interesting."
Or in my case, flipping through my DVD/Blu-Ray collection.
Such is how I came across "14 Blades" at 2:00 am the other night. I'd forgotten I'd bought it, and figured it might help pass the late night hours.
It is the Ming Dynasty, and a plot to overthrow to Emperor is afoot. Raised, trained, and sworn to protect the Emperor as a Jinyiwei, Qinglong has been betrayed by an ambitious fellow Jinyiwei. The traitors have stolen the Imperial Seal. It is now up to Qinglong and some unexpected allies to keep the seal out of the hands of the traitors.
This Chinese martial arts film has a nice spaghetti western feel to it at times- especially in the way Donnie Yen portrays Qinglong. He brings a very Man With No Name feel to the characters- which I actually quite enjoyed. The pacing, and quite a few of the shots add to the feel of a western... though the ending shot might be seen as a bit much.
Unfortunately, his character (as enjoyable as I found it), and the others are pretty standard stock characters you'd find in marital art films and westerns. Yen's performance was also the best of the lot- though I'd say that Kate Tsui as Tuo-Tuo was almost as good, in addition to her character being actually just as interesting as Qinglong. The rest weren't bad- but not really noteworthy, with Zhao Wei seeming to be partly asleep while acting.
The story is also fairly standard "lone samurai" type of story- full of pretty predictable tropes and plot points. To be honest, I think the story was mere justification for the fight sequences.
Which brings me to the fight scenes. They were fast paced and visually creative, with some decent choreography. Maybe too fast paced and visually creative, since you don't really get to see the fight clearly- especially in the main sequences involving Qinglong and Tuo-Tuo. In those scenes, there's too much CGI, blurring, etc to give us a chance to appreciate the actual techniques of the characters involved. The clearest, and enjoyable fight was between Qinglong and "The Judge of the Desert" (played by Wu Chun).
Also, for a film called "14 Blades", you never really get to see the different blades being used (aside from a quick intro bit about the blades)
Would I necessarily recommend someone go out of their way to watch it? No, I wouldn't. Would I recommend it in the event you're flipping through channels at 2:00 am? Sure, why not- it's not a bad way to waste a bit of time. Worth a watch under certain circumstances is how I'd describe this movie. I'm going to put "14 Blades" in "The Bad".