DRAGON BLADE is a unique blockbuster with a strong concept, action-packed narrative, and great performances. A Chinese-American production, DRAGON BLADE knows how to rope viewers in with a colorful cast of Jackie Chan as a Silk Road peace-keeper/warrior Huo An, John Cusack’s Lucius and Adrien Brody’s corrupt Tiberius as two Roman generals/brothers on opposite sides of the forthcoming battle, and many more great actors who I’ve seen before in other Chinese productions (but don’t know who they are); as well as the promise of epic battle scenes and spectacle, which DRAGON BLADE delivers on quite often.
The stunning, simple, moving and action-packed story starts a little slow, with Jackie Chan’s Huo An and his fellow Silk Road peace-keeping warriors introduced breaking up a skirmish on their beloved Silk Road which he is charged with protecting, and is defected through deceitful means to Eagle Gate. This is where the defected Silk Road warriors come face-to-face with another band of soldiers, a Roman battalion led by General Lucius (Cusack) who they at first stand off with in self-defense, but eventually see that they are on common ground and tell their respective stories to one another. Both Huo An and Lucius were banished by deceit, with Lucius’s case being the more severe: his treacherous older brother Tiberius (Brody) blinded Lucius’s son and rightful heir to the Roman Emperor’s title. Now Lucius is on the run and seeking help for fighting Tiberius, who is in hot pursuit of his brother.
That’s the setup of the story, with many battle scenes punctuating the narrative and a somewhat hokey but still necessary sequence of the Romans and Chinese soldiers helping restore Eagle Gate before an impending punishment comes from their superiors (those in charge of the Eagle Gate). The following sequence is key to the story, as both Huo An and Lucius’s son sing cultural songs of unity, peace, and loyalty to their homelands.
Jackie Chan is in great form as the character he usually plays, the bumbling yet humble and strong-willed hero who stands his ground and is an excellent fighter. John Cusack brings gravity and a sense of loss and hope to his character Lucius, whose recent grievance he hopes to right and restore, to bring the fight to his brother…Adrien Brody as Tiberius brings a forcefully malicious and brutally motivated approach to his corrupt character, whose treachery and schemes knows no bounds as does his surprising prowess in battle.
Speaking of battle, the epic and bloody battle scenes deliver the action goods. Like stated above, the action is top-notch and director Daniel Lee fills the screen with each side fighting in different factions and very different yet engaging tactics and counter-tactics to make the fight choreography and execution that much more enjoyable and admirable.
Now don’t get me wrong, DRAGON BLADE isn’t flawless since the film also has a number of flaws. The director’s pace in the beginning portion is very slow, even for character development and establishment’s sake. The acting is top-notch from the main actors, but some of the supporting actors don’t fare as well. And while the camerawork throughout the film is assured and well-executed, the CGI is somewhat spotty (good in spots, not-as-good in others).
Moving forward, DRAGON BLADE is an especially good martial arts epic with (mostly) great casting choices and acting, an action-packed and simply epic and moving narrative that promotes harmony and unity among peoples and at the same time fight for the right to attain peace. With a slow beginning pace, spotty acting and CGI (here and there) holds DRAGON BLADE back from being a very memorable action epic (on par with Jon Woo’s RED CLIFF, which is a masterpiece). Instead, DRAGON BLADE is only very good and not as memorable as it could have been.