This week’s DVD is Dragon Blade, a magisterial epic which takes us back over 2000 years to ancient China, and an unlikely meeting between East and West.
It’s 48 BC and in the west of China a security organisation called the Silk Road Protection Squad has been charged by the government with keeping the peace on the vital trading route.
Huo An, played by Jackie Chan, is pretty good at it but the arrival of a Roman Legion threatens all of that.
The Legion is in need of supplies and headed up by Lucius (John Cusack), they are willing to take them by force if necessary.
A fight between Lucius and Huo An ensues ending in a stalemate which gives way to mutual respect and co-operation between the commanders.
Huo An learns that Lucius and his legion is on the run from the murderous Tiberius (Adrien Brody), a corrupt consul with 100,000 soldiers at his command. With this marauding army on the march along the Silk Road it’s up to Huo An to save the day.
Purported to be the biggest budget Chinese-financed movie in history, the film packs in a fair bit of star power in the form of Chan, Cusack and Oscar-winner Brody. However none of them live up to the top billing.
Brody’s over-acting is faintly laughable, Cusack’s under-acting is predictably awful, meanwhile Chan walks the fine line between the two, playing it straight as the serious military man.
It’s all a far cry from the dynamic roles which made his name and frustrating for fans of the great man’s work.
As well as splashing the cash on big name actors, it’s clear director Daniel Lee also spent a fair wedge on the production. The landscapes and backdrops to the story are lavishly adorned and often dripping with CGI effects.
Unfortunately spectacle alone isn’t enough to save Dragon Blade. The film’s plodding pace and muddled final act make for a disappointing foray into a fascinating time in world history.