‘14 Blades’ is the third movie I’ve seen from director Daniel Lee and based on these three films it looks to me like Mr. Lee might not be much of a storyteller but he sure is one helluva visualist. Seriously, ‘Dragon Heat’, ‘Resurrection of the Dragon’ and this movie are so optically and aurally spectacular that it almost brings a tear to my eye but the stories in these movies tend to defy all reason and logic. ‘Resurrection of the Dragon’ less so because it’s biography of sorts but it’s a bio that skips over forty years of the subjects lifetime and if forty missing years isn’t a plot hole then I don’t what is. But despite whatever shortcomings ‘Dragon Heat’ and ‘Resurrection of the Dragon’ might’ve had, I really enjoyed sitting through those movies… but not nearly as much as I enjoyed sitting though '14 Blades'.
As we are told as this movie begins the Jinyiwei are the toughest, nastiest most brutal guards in the emperor’s army and the leader of this crew is Qinglong (Donnie Yen), so one can imagine how tough he must be. Orphans raised from birth to do this one single thing, the Jinyiwei are living breathing killing machines. On this particular night Qinglong and his crew are dispatched to retrieve the Emperor’s Seal. Just so you know, right now I’m a little confused about what’s going on because I don’t exactly who is who and of what importance they serve to the story. Regardless, Qinglong tells the gentleman that possesses the seal to give it up, he refuses, Qinglong shows his skills and gets the seal, then finds that he is betrayed, has the seal snatched from him, he is wounded, branded a traitor and is now on the run. The fourteen blades, for your info, is this special case housing fourteen specialized blades that the Jinyiwei leader, Qinglong, is in charge of using and protecting. The only blade we really need to concern ourselves with is the fourteenth blade which the holder must use on himself should he fail in his mission.
Sammo Hung plays a part in this as well as Prince Qing who I believe is mounting a coup of sorts and to this end has sent his adoptive daughter Tuo Tuo (Kate Tsui) to
spearhead this little plan of his. Now I’m looking at this completely adorable young woman and thinking how dangerous can this cute little thing… oh… damn. That’s ugly what she did to that guy. I hate to be crude but the character of Tuo Tuo just might be the baddest bitch in the history of movies. The Bride thinks she needs to bring it down a notch and show some compassion every once in a while.
Anyway Qinglong needs safe passage to heaven knows where and hires an escort agency run by the aging Jiao Zhong (Wu Ma) and his lovely daughter Qiao Hua (Vicky Zhao) to shield him while he gets to wherever it is he is trying to go. The escorts are oblivious to the fact that Qinglong is Jinyiwei but they will find out soon enough when on their journey he single handedly eviscerates a troop of his former charges sent to retrieve him.
Eventually Qinglong runs off with Qiao Hua as his ‘hostage’ which is obviously just an excuse to get these attractive people alone so they can bond and fan the fires of love. More or less. While they do all that Tuo Tuo is steady tracking her prey while Qinglong is looking to set things right and restore his dignity in addition to making the person that betrayed him pay the ultimate price. But eventually it has to come down the mano a womano battle between the tattooed badass and the cutie pie who is mighty pissed off throughout this entire movie. What the heck is she so mad about?
I’ve read in numerous publications that Donnie Yen isn’t considered to be much of an actor, and who am I to say differently since I wouldn’t know good acting if it walked up and kicked me in the nuts. That being said it looked to me like Mr. Yen did some preparation before taking on the role of Qinglong in this film ‘14 Blades’. Now this prep either consisted of Donnie taking some time off to hone his acting skills or it this prep consisted of Donnie hitting the gym and bulking up a bit to look even more badass. If you’re curious Donnie Yen did the right thing and chose option B.
Narratively speaking there were times I didn’t know what precisely was going on in this movie especially in the beginning as it was attempting to setup its story, but after that nonsense was out of the way, and it gets out of the way quickly, the rest of this movie is a festival of ass kicking delight and actress Vicki Zhao staring longingly off into the distance. This isn’t to say that ‘14 Blades’ is a just series of disconnected action sequences as the main story elements, Qinglong’s relationship with Qiao Hua and his quest for redemption, are crystal clear and handled very well by Daniel Lee. Vicki Zhao creates a multi-dimensional character which draws us into her life and has the audience actively involved in caring about her outcome. But don’t get it confused, it is the big time action sequences that make this movie so much fun to watch.
Kung fu, Wire fu, shootouts, runaway carriages, explosions, gun fights, avalanches, knife fights, sword fights and more death and destruction than you can shake a stick at. It’s all here in glorious Technicolor. The best of course is the ridiculously beautiful Kate Tsui, her character of Tuo Tuo, the assassins CGI doppelganger and Tuo Tuo’s various methods of death dealing, who complemented Donnie Yen’s typical badassery just perfectly. Outstanding.
‘14 Blades’ is a movie had me feeling like a ten year old again. When you’re ten you can watch something and while you might not know what’s going on, you really don’t care what’s going on. You just know you’re having a good time watching it.