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article imageReview: ‘Dragon Blade’ is unnecessarily dull at times Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 9, 2015 in Entertainment
Jackie Chan, John Cusack and Adrien Brody go back to 50 B.C. and battle it out for control of the Silk Road in ‘Dragon Blade.’
In history, many leaders earn their distinctions of success through cruelty and fear. However at least an equal number of chiefs may be recognized for their compassion and intellect, though they are more often forgotten. In wars throughout the ages, both methods have been practiced with fervour and effect. In Dragon Blade there are many heads to look to for leadership, each with their own means of creating loyal soldiers and victorious operations.
Huo An (Jackie Chan) leads a group of men assigned to keep the peace on the Silk Road, which can be tricky when 36 nations claim a portion of it. Unfortunately they are set up and their careers ended, forced to serve their sentences rebuilding a Chinese city on the Road. Shortly after the Protection Squad’s arrival, a Roman Legion approaches the territory. With no other defences, Huo An and his men go out to meet the soldiers whose leader, Lucius (John Cusack), demands shelter and aid for a sick boy. A natural threat compels them to form an alliance and the two groups learn to co-exist. But an even greater menace marches toward them with an army of thousands and a desire to rule the entire Silk Road. Working together they have a fighting chance, but Tiberius’s (Adrien Brody) ruthlessness makes their task more difficult.
The second act is reminiscent of similar war movies in which coalitions turn into friendships as the newfound partners combine their efforts to achieve an ultimate goal. In this case, the prisoners are tasked to reconstruct Wild Geese Gate in an impossible 15 days. Combining their knowledge and skills, they find shortcuts to building the wall — all the while implying the Roman way is the better way. On the other hand when it comes to loyalty and combat skills, both Huo An’s and Lucius’ men are formidable.
The final act pits Tiberius’s forces against everyone. The brutality of this section is very much in conflict with the harmony demonstrated earlier in the film. Even though the peace they achieve couldn’t last forever, the bloodshed that takes place is quite abrupt. Nonetheless, the scenes on the battlefield are the movie’s strongest. The vast armies clashing and using their distinctive skills to get the upper-hand are quite impressive. Unfortunately the events leading up to these fights are less so. The film generally prefers to look back on events rather than allow them to play out in real time. As a result most of the major narrative developments are shown in slow, melodramatic flashbacks, which stunt the movie’s flow.
Nonetheless, Chan is accustomed to playing ancient Chinese warriors, so this role is well-suited to him. His character is somewhat of an ambassador, so he conveniently speaks English, Chinese and a few other languages. His army also uses an interesting chain system that links their swords to their wrists, which leads to some notable fight moves. Though Brody is not on screen for most of the film, his character does play a significant role in the overall story. As a result, he gives a few rousing speeches and then takes part in the picture’s climactic final battle that is unfairly tilted in his favour. Cusack, on the other hand, has the depth to play a general forced to make the hard choices; but he lacks the toughness also expected of a seasoned soldier. In the end he’s adequate, but someone else may have been better.
Director: Daniel Lee
Starring: Jackie Chan, John Cusack and Adrien Brody
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