Dragon Blade: Jackie Chan preaching to the disinterested
Jackie Chan has been pounding the pulpit for some time, telling everyone who might listen that he's all about non-violence in his films these days, even though they still come packed full of fisticuffs. Chan wants to be known as an actor not just a fighter, and his characters now turn to the biff only under extreme provocation - a point that is so often laboured in productions in which the star appears.
It tends to take the spark out of the Chan magic somewhat as the delight was always in seeing him have so much fun carving his way through a crowd of villains, rather than appear to do so while simultaneously battling his own better judgment. Perhaps if he paid as much attention to the scripts he was accepting - rather than his search for the good in all men - we'd all be better off.
That's just one of the aspects that drag down this blockbuster directed by Daniel Lee Yan-kong. The other is the presence of John Cusack looking for all the world as if he is wishing (praying, perhaps) that he could be somewhere else.
Put it down to the dust. Lee has shown before - in the likes of 14 Blades (2010) and White Vengeance (2011) - that he likes a touch of realism mixed in with the fantasies of his big-budget productions, and so here he took cast and crew to the Gobi desert for what was by all reports a gruelling shoot.
Cusack for one never looks happy. So maybe it was equal parts dirt and dodgy script that are to blame. The point that the peacemaker Chan bangs on about here is that we should all get along, and he tries to do just that with a band of lost Roman soldiers who find themselves on China's doorstep during the Han dynasty.
But a bad guy is introduced to wreck all the fun, and to force these newly forged loyalties to be tested. Problem is, it comes in the shape of Adrien Brody and he's an actor who could never be accused of doing things by half. Brody steals the show, and all our attention, with a wonderfully over-the-top performance.
The battle scenes are impressive but not enough to compensate for all that preaching.
Extras: making-of featurette; trailers
Dragon Blade Jackie Chan, John Cusack, Adrien Brody Director: Daniel Lee Yan-kong