Jinyiwei were one of the earliest forerunners of the Secret Service, but they
soon became one of the first secret police organizations. Their original
mandate was to protect the Ming Emperor, but they quickly became a law unto
themselves. Feared and despised, Jinyiwei agents lived short and lonely lives.
Nobody understands this better than Qinglong, who persists at any cost to
complete what he assumes will be his final assignment in Daniel Lee’s 14 Blades (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
a Jinyiwei, Qinglong carries the service’s notorious 14 blades: eight are
devised for torture, five for fighting (so to speak), and one is designed for a
Jinyiwei’s final exit. Like many of his brothers, Qinglong survived a brutal
recruitment process when he was only just a child. He still carries the
emotional scars from his baptism of fire, so the sense of betrayal is
particularly acute when he discovers the Jinyiwei leadership has been corrupted
by their eunuch commander, Jia Jingzhong.
his was set-up during his latest mission, Qinglong goes rogue, seeking the
missing imperial seal Jia and his ally, the treasonous Prince Qing, intend to
use to legitimize their power grab. Although outnumbered, Qinglong will recruit
key allies, retaining the services of the nearly bankrupt Justice Escort Agency
(and developing a doomed attraction to proprietor Qiao Yong’s rebellious
daughter, Qiao Hua in the process). He will also forge an alliance with a
notorious highwayman known as “The Judge” and his Heaven Eagles Gang, who will
get to keep all the gold the conspirators are transporting with the Macguffin
14 Blades does not exactly
break a lot of new wuxia ground, but the striking Yinchuan desert locations
distinguishes it from the field. Kate Tsui (2004 Miss Hong Kong) also makes a
memorable nemesis as Tuo Tuo, Prince Qing’s adopted daughter. She her
serpentine lash is a fearsome weapon, but the way she sheds her apparently animated
robes to disorient her opponents does not make much sense (nor is it done for
purposes of titillation). She has the fight chops though, which is the
important. When she and Qinglong finally go at it in earnest, their showdown
does not disappoint.
the Ip Man franchise and Dragon (a.k.a.
Wu Xia), Donnie Yen proved he can be
enormously charismatic and engaging on-screen, but he can also be a tad distant
and aloof in lesser films. Frankly, it takes a while to warm to his icy
Qinglong, but eventually he forges some nicely tragic romantic chemistry with (Vicki)
Zhao Wei’s pure-hearted Qiao Hua. However, Wu Chun nearly upstages Yen as the
bold and impulsive Judge. When Qinglong faces him and Tsui’s Tuo Tuo, the film
really takes flight. However, it is also pleasing to see crafty veterans, like
the late Wu Ma and the great Sammo Hung appearing as Qiao Yong and Prince Qing,
Blades boasts some
spectacular action, exotic scenery, and a cautionary message about absolute
power and its inevitable abuses. It might not be Yen’s best work, but he
responds to the first class ensemble surrounding him. A quality wuxia
production, 14 Blades is recommended
for serious fans and casual viewers alike when it opens this Friday (8/22) in
select theaters and also launches on TWC-Radius’s VOD platforms.
Labels: Donnie Yen, Kate Tsui, Wuxia, Zhao Wei