Starring: Jackie Chan, John Cusack, Adrien Brody
Huo An (Chan), a commander to a group entrusted with keeping the fabled Silk Road safe and secure along is exiled along with his entire group and sent to help rebuild a destroyed city. After the arrival of a renegade Roman General called Lucius (Cusack) and his army, Huo An offers them shelter and in exchange they use their advanced Roman techniques to rebuilt the city, and the two men and their respective armies form a strong bond. However when Lucius’ corrupt brother arrives with a large army, the two join forces to attempt defeat Lucius and his vast army.
Recently I counted down my top ten rundown of the big name actors that now just seem to turn up in terrible films (click here to be depressed and frustrated by that list), and on that list is the one and only John Cusack. Well, Dragon Blade is only further proof that his career is going the way of the Cage and that either he is interested solely in the fee and not the quality of the script, or he is no longer being offered good roles anymore and has to take whatever he has been offered so he can pay the bills.
Well, in the case of Dragon Blade, it is important to take note that this not a Hollywood blockbuster, but a film that is a product of the Chinese film industry where the star of the show is Jackie Chan and the plot requires some Westerners to turn up. So in what is probably a cynical marketing ploy they casted a couple of well-known Hollywood names (one an Oscar winner) as ‘Romans’, or a better description would be ‘not Chinese people’. So please step forward John Cusack and Adrien Brody to fulfil these roles and make the film more marketable to a Western audience. Well, they are not exactly names that can draw in the big crowds anymore, and the film’s straight to DVD status in the UK is certainly proof of that.
This is not too much of an issue for those behind Dragon Blade as it made a lot of money in its native country, even if to us in the West it just looks like yet another rubbish straight to DVD film starring two fading Hollywood stars. Well, not only does it look like it on the marketing, but while watching it Dragon Blade does feel like it belongs on the straight to DVD shelf, as it contains a shoddily put together clichéd story, abysmal dialogue and the Western actors look like they really cannot be bothered.
It is of course worth pointing out that in the UK the film is at least 30 minutes shorter than in other countries, and my God does it show! The editing process to cut it down was not particularly rigorous as there are blatantly whole scenes missing from the film and very little effort has been made to hide that fact. I do believe it unlikely that is extra 30 minutes would make Dragon Blade an epic masterpiece, but it perhaps must make it slightly less clunky and episodic.
The advantage of it having a 98 minute running time is that though its story is completely all over the place, Dragon Blade at least never outstays its welcome and is admittedly an entertaining watch, even if it does provide a fair few laughs AT (definitely not with), with some randomly slapstick moments amongst some quite bloody violence. The seemingly random nature of the shorter version’s narrative does actually provide even more unintentional comedy.
Some of the action sequences are well shot and choreographed, with the always likeable Jackie Chan delivering a trademark likeable and charismatic performance as the film’s protagonist. John Cusack’s character is slightly laughable, and he never convinces in the role or ever looks like he even wants to try to, but Adrien Brody (complete with mullet) goes for the other end of the scale as the film’s main bad guy and struggles to pick out of his teeth all the scenery that he ferociously chews up.
As the film plods along clichés are ticked off and all outcomes are never in doubt, but the decent action, completely disjointed randomness of the narrative and Chan’s charisma provide enough entertainment and unintentional comedy to make it an entertaining enough romp. A decent supply of alcohol nearby also helps to enhance the film’s guilty pleasure factor.
A film that is certainly hard to coherently describe; if it were not for it having a couple of famous Hollywood faces Dragon Blade may not have even appeared on the Western side of the globe, but though it is totally clichéd and generic nonsense, it is has just enough to be an entertaining guilty pleasure.