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14 Blades (Blu-ray Review)

14-BladesAnchor Bay is releasing the “new”est Donnie Yen film, 14 Blades.  I use the term “new” loosely as its been out since 2010.  The film is just now coming over to the United States after playing and being awarded elsewhere for four years.  While it premiered in Hong Kong, the film truly became a hit when it opened in Singapore.  It then ended up being nominated for two awards at the 29th Hong Kong Film Awards.  The awards it was up for were for Best Sound Design and Best Action Choreography.  Of those nomination, however, it went home empty handed winning neither of them.  This isn’t the first Blu-ray release of the film either, but it is the first release of the film in the United States territory.

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Film

Qinglong is a legendary royal guard-trained in a clandestine form of combat from childhood in order to devote his life and lethal prowess to the service of the Emperor. When the Imperial Court is taken over by an evil traitor, Jia, and betrayal lurks at every corner, Qinglong finds himself hunted by those he once trusted. Now as the most wanted man in the land, he must seek out and rally the loyalists to rise against Jia and restore the Emperor to his rightful place!

14 Blades featured some great action sequences, awesome stunts and some great swordplay.  That was enough to provide some solid enough enjoyment for me to recommend it.  However, as far as story goes, I felt pretty lost as far as who does what, this guy’s name as opposed to that guy and what exactly we were going after in the long run.  I understood enough that the story was about a sacred warrior being betrayed by his own kind and going out to bring justice and truth abound, but the details were fuzzy as fuzzy can be.  In the beginning we are provided with an excessive prologue giving us the history of everything with a narrator talking super fast and subtitles flying by quicker than you can read them.  And the characters and subtitles for the characters also movie at the same speed.  This really wasn’t working out for me from the get go.  Every time I’d thought I caught on, I was lost again within seconds.  Its kind of how Game Of Thrones can be to a newbie, but you don’t get a whole season to start figuring things out.

On the other end, the action is pretty fantastic.  It consists of a lot of “wire fu”, but done in some very intense and creative ways.  The camera work is pretty loose during the fights, but I would say its not close to being that of “shaky cam”.  Or if you want to call it that, then these are folks that know how to use the device effectively.  Its not without CGI, but its meant to assist in creating the impossible, not as a crutch.  The film also features a lot of really cool sword/weapon fights.  Its also not afraid to infuse plenty of humor into its action scenes as well.  One action set piece features our hero doing away with a rival gang via tossing chicken bones as he’s done eating them at their foreheads.  Its also noteworthy that each of the more distinct characters in the film seem to have their own special powers/moves/fighting style.  The film has a more serious tone when it comes to its action, but isn’t afraid to let loose with it either.

While I may have had my share of confusion following the story (Maybe I’m just getting too old), it was balanced by the fact that this film had some good action scenes put together along with some outstanding fight choreography.  I was able to catch up with the story enough in places to help piece together some of the more generic plotlines going on.  Going right down the middle is how I’ll have to draw this, though some will easily go on the more positive side of the line as they can likely keep up with the plot, characters and story better than I was able to in my once viewing.

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Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail:  14 Blades has a little bit above average, but kind of ugly looking picture.  There’s a overuse of a green tint to the picture that makes for a sort ugly look.  Detail is okay, but could have been better.  The image is not very sharp and some moments give the look of a halo effect on characters and objects.

Depth:  Solid average depth.  There are some good slow-mo moments that provide a dynamic look at a scene.

Black Levels:  Blacks are a bit lighter as it feels the brightness is turned up.  Not much crushing if any.

Color Reproduction:  Colors come off a bit average.  There are some reds that look pretty bold.

Flesh Tones: Skin is very green colored.  Detail is high in close ups.

Noise/Artifacts:  Seemed grainy though I’m sure this was shot digitally.

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Audio

Audio Format(s):  Chinese 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics:  This is a nice track that crisply displays a nice balance between score, action and vocals.  There are well rounded effects and pristine clinging and clanging of metal weapons.  A nice range of volume produces some great environmental feeling during some action moments.

Low Frequency Extension:  Enhancements on score, explosions, crashes and swords making contact.

Surround Sound Presentation: Some nice ambiance and some good fighting action caught in the rear speakers.  The front features some great right and left movement, beneficial for a movie with a lot stuff being thrown.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Clear, clean and front heavy.  Some of the actors voices appear to be dubbed over as there are sync issues with a couple characters.

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Extras

Absolutely absolutely nothing

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Summary

Anchor Bay gives a solid presentation of Donnie Yen’s latest import 14 Blades.  Its hard to believe there were zero extras for this, but it is what it is (might have been part of the deal in bringing it over).  As far as the film, I was definitely taken with most all of the action sequences and a little lost with the story, but enjoyed enough of its exploitation not to be perturbed.  For Donnie Yen fans, you’re definitely going to pick this up.  For others, rent it first or what for this one’s price to go down.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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