Have you ever wondered what would happen if you threw Adrien Brody and John Cusack into a Jackie Chan, historical war, martial arts drama? No? Well, fear not, all of your worst nightmares have come true, as the trio collaborate in Daniel Lee’s uninspiring, hackneyed piece of cinema, Dragon Blade.
Inspired by real events, Chan plays Huo An, who locks horns with Brody’s Tiberius, a Roman leader who wants to claim the Silk Road – an essential trading district. However he wasn’t expecting such a backlash, as Huo An teams up with General Lcius (Cusack) to form an army set to protect the land, and the Chinese people – as an intense, dangerous war between the two sides beckons.
Lee has attempted, and sadly failed, to combine martial arts with frivolity, taking an all too slapstick approach. Needless to say the two styles do not mix, as the more comical elements to this piece do little but cheapen the more implicative, profound moments. There’s simply no elegance to the conflict within this clumsy endeavour, which is surprising, as where Chan is concerned, you expect that at the very least the choreography would work as something of a saving grace, and yet is one of the more tedious aspects of this movie. The performances do little to inspire either, as both Cusack and Brody appear to be more concerned with making an easy pay-check than bringing nuance or depth to the roles at hand. Lee doesn’t help matters from the director’s chair either, with a narrative structure that bears no rhythm, while his pacing is all over the place.
This generic picture will struggle to find an audience as a result, not able to identify a tone, albeit a film that is, in parts, gloriously kitsch. However it remains to be seen whether or not anybody connected to Dragon Blade is quite aware that be the case, never being quite tongue-in-cheek enough, nor is it poignant or sombre enough to work the other way – which proves a real problem.