The Hong Kong film director Daniel Lee painted a beautiful scenario of the historic Silk Road, named by Ferdinand von Richthofen, a well-known German geographer in 1877—via the latest and most expensive period movie titled ‘Dragon Blade’ with Jackie Chan, John Cusack, and Adrien Brody as the lead actors.
I grew up watching some of Chan’s films, but with this one, I would say this really deserves a standing ovation due to its production values, the performances of the actors, and how the characters hooked its audience with the story of friendship between Huo An (Chan), the Commander of the Silk Road Protection Squad and Lucius (Cusack), the Commander General of the Roman Empire.
Lee brilliantly made the Silk Road as its narrative arc in developing and presenting a story about unity, peace, and friendship between races. Since this trade route originated from Chang’an (now Xian) has been an ancient route that did not only circulate goods, but also exchanged the splendid cultures of China, India, Persia, Arabia, Greek and Rome—it is but fitting that this historical place was made as the film’s main backdrop.
‘Dragon Blade’ has three main reasons why moviegoers should not miss.
Its Message of Peace Transcends Time.
In these times of violence and war, that even our country is not excluded from facing—this film teaches mankind to respect his fellow human beings. Chan’s character as Huo An, who leads a peacekeeping force known to be the Protection Squad set during the Chinese Han Dynasty (206 BC–24 AD), met Lucius, a Roman general who escapes to China after rescuing the Prince Publius (Jozef Waite) from the evil Tiberius (Brody). Tiberius killed his father, the wealthiest man in Rome in order to secure the inheritance to himself.
The intense duel scene between Huo An and Lucius was one of the film’s highlights that moviegoers should look forward to, Chan, who described his character as a man who detests wars, but ironically he must win wars to achieve peace and Cusack, who assumed the role, which was rumored to be originally offered to Mel Gibson; allowed him to showcase his skills in kickboxing and sword-fighting.
Two warriors are both fighting for good and eventually end up as allies and form the kind of deep bond to protect humans from the horrors of wars and from the greed of one leader in penetrating and conquering the Silk Road.
Superb Display of Acting.
Chan is pitted with Hollywood actors in this film. Apart from Cusack, Hollywood actor—Adrien Brody (‘The Pianist’) made an impressive portrayal of Tiberius. He succeeded in channeling the sinister Roman ruler’s character onscreen, though brief but deserves an acting nomination. Being Tiberius, Brody effortlessly became the character that even in his fight scenes with Chan as well as Choi Si-Won, the Korean heartthrob and a member of a boy band Super Junior who portrayed Yin Po were truly breathless.
Waite as Publius also stole some scenes especially when he had his moment when he sang a Roman anthem. His voice gave some chills and moved not just every actor in the scene, but the audiences who watched at the celebrity premiere on Tuesday, February 18 at Cinema 3 of Glorietta 4. Other notable acting that needed necessary highlights are those of two female leads—Chinese actresses Lin Peng and Mika Wang as Cold Moon and Hou An’s wife, respectively. Both didn’t allow to be left behind in terms of assuming their roles. Lin Peng was eloquent in using two weapons—the whip and the bow. While Wang, though immaculately-looking, she was able to express her character’s deep emotions.
Another notable appearance in the film is of Korean-American pop star—Yoo Seung-jun as the Cold Moon’s warrior-brother. The Australian model-actress-dancer Sharni Vinson (Step Up 3D) had a cameo role as the Roman Queen. Even the Chopsticks Brothers Xiao Yang and Wang Taili had their moments, too, as they provided comic relief in the film.
Grand Depiction of Silk Road and the Roman Empire.
The legend of a Roman legion coming into China—into the trade route—the Silk Road was carefully staged and while watching the movie, one can feel that he or she is transported to that place and relive historic memories about what it was popularly known for. The Roman Empire on the other hand, was breathtaking in its depiction—its attention to detail made the said setting more believable unlike when Filipino period flicks are being done.
One cannot think of how challenging this film was done, which was mentioned as seven-year-in-the-making. With 700 crew members of different nationalities, speaking more than ten languages including Mandarin, Cantonese, English, Korean, French, German and Russian—proved that it is possible to make such epic film despite the many differences in the set as well as extreme weather conditions experienced by the cast and crew due to its film’s location—China’s western frontier. They had been exposed to continuous rain in Hengdian and the countless sandstorms in Aksai, but ‘Dragon Blade’ triumphed as it rendered grand depictions of ancient China and the Roman kingdom.
Dubbed as one of the most expensive films in history with an estimated US$65 Million budget; it utilized 100,000 film props, 60,000 of which were handcrafted. Due to the meticulous handling of the set and other necessary stuff that went with the filming of ‘Dragon Blade’—it has given justice to the historical scenes. Thus, watching it in 3D would definitely add a different dimension for the audience to experience.
Also in the film, is Taiwan’s ‘F4’ and ‘Meteor Garden’ phenomenon—Vaness Wu and Karena Lam were also part of the cast members. Both are archeologists in the present time who pave the way for the story on the ‘Two Empires: The Eagle and the Dragon’.
This Jackie Chan latest opus, which he also produced and choreographed its action scenes, is not something to miss. One must watch this on the silver screen or opt for a 3D-version so every the scene would create an effect that one is truly there and won’t just have a flat and bland experience especially during the battle of all tribes involved.
The epic film ‘Dragon Blade’, which re-imagined the legend of two commanders; opened yesterday in theaters nationwide to commemorate the first year of the Chinese New Year. Viva International Pictures and MVP Entertainment released the film here in the Philippines.