Movie Review: “14 Blades” Slices Its Way Through China

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Review by James McDonald

A kung fu thriller set during the Ming Dynasty and centered on a secret service agent (Donnie Yen) in the emperor’s court who is betrayed and then hunted by his colleagues.

Donnie Yen is a Chinese actor who has made a name for himself as a terrific martial artist, chopping up the scenery in films like “Ip Man”, “Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster” and “Special ID”, to name but a few. His fighting skills are very unorthodox, more akin to a street-fighter than that of a particular style of kung-fu although he has mastered both wushi and tai chi. When I saw “Special ID” not too long ago, I was very underwhelmed as I had heard so many great things about it but going into “14 Blades”, I knew nothing about it in advance and I think I enjoyed it even more so because of that reason.

The movie is set during the late Ming Dynasty where the monarchy is afflicted by corruption and ineptitude. The Jinyiwei are the government’s secret police, disciplined in underground combat since childhood. Qinglong (Donnie Yen), the general in charge, is assigned a top secret mission but while he is away, he is betrayed by his fellow Jinyiwei and the monarchy and is labeled a traitor and his death sanctioned. He manages to escape but is injured in the process and must recoup before trying to find out why he was banished. Along the way, he comes across the Justice Escort Agency, a group of people that, for the right price, will accompany whatever cargo you need transported from one location to another.

He strikes up a romantic relationship with Qiao Hua (Zhao Wei), whose father leads the agency and while he makes his way back to the forbidden land where he was cast out as word of a conspiracy has leaked, they meet up with the Heaven Eagles Gang, bandits who are led by the self-proclaimed Judge of the Desert (Wu Chun), a tough-as-nails young man who is always up for a fight. With his new allies by his side and something to live for in Qiao Hua, Qinglong regains his strength and heads straight for the monarchy’s front gate, unaware that a very-highly experienced female warrior awaits his return.

“14 Blades” is jam-packed with action and adventure and when Mr. Yen begins to fight, it’s only then that the action is knocked up a notch and you find your jaw on the floor at some of the most spectacular martial arts fighting you’ve ever seen. The performances all around are top-notch and the movie is thrillingly photographed by cinematographer Tony Cheung. Director Daniel Lee delivers a rousing adventure that is well worth your time. Recommended.

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James McDonald
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