14 Blades (Blu-ray) (2010)

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Released 23-Feb-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Martial Arts Featurette-Making Of
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-RED
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 112:50
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Daniel Lee
Studio
Distributor
Golden Harvest
Icon Entertainment
Starring Donnie Yen
Zhao Wei
Wu Chun
Kate Tsui
Qi Yuwu
Wu Ma
Sammo Hung
Case ?
RPI $46.95 Music Henry Lai


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Chinese DTS HD High Resolution Audio 5.1
Chinese Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     In the early Ming Dynasty the Jinyiwei were the feared Imperial Secret Service agents. Recruited from orphans, answerable only to Imperial edits, they were trained to eliminate anyone designated as opponents or traitors to the regime. The leader of the Jinyiwei, as a badge of office, carried a box in which were 14 different steel blades. The 14th was a gold blade to be used on himself if he failed his mission.

     After an unsuccessful revolt, Prince Qing (Sammo Hung) has been exiled to the north. He conspires with palace courtier Sir Jia (Law Kar-ying) to send the Jinyiwei leader Qianlong (Donnie Yen) to kill the loyal Sir Zhao Shenyan (Damian Lau) and obtain the Royal Seal. Qianlong obtains the seal but is betrayed by Sir Jai and traitorous Jinyiwei Xuan Wu (Qi Yuwu); wounded, Qianlong becomes a hunted fugitive and seeks assistance from the Justice Escorts led by Jiao Zhong (Wu Ma) and his daughter Qiao Hua (Zhao Wei) to get him out of the city. Hunted by the Jinyiwei and tracked by Prince Qing’s adopted daughter Tuo Tuo (Kate Tsui), a skilled assassin in her own right, Qianlong abducts Qiao Hua and forms an alliance with a robber band, the Sky Eagle Clan led by the Judge of the Desert (Wu Chun), to thwart the designs of Prince Qing and Sir Jai, to retrieve the Imperial Seal and to restore his honour. As Qianlong finds love and friendship in unexpected places, he moves towards a climax in which very few will be left standing.

     14 Blades (original title Jin yi wei) is cracking entertainment. The cast is a marvellous combination of talent. Donnie Yen is a genuine action superstar, but outside the action scenes he often does seems limited in range. Yet here he gives a moving dramatic performance as an older, world weary man whose world has been turned upside down. Yen’s athleticism and fighting skills are as excellent as ever, and he is probably aided by not having to double as the film’s action director; those duties taken by Ku Huen Chui. Also important is the fact that the wonderful Zhao Wei is the female lead. She seems to be the rising female star of Chinese cinema with memorable performances recently in John Woo’s Red Cliff (2008), where she held her own against a galaxy of male superstars, and as the lead in Mulan (2009). In 14 Blades her Qiao Hua is vulnerable, feisty, beautiful and very feminine, and her scenes with Yen are funny and poignant, and display a connection between them that is often missing in other films with Yen’s leading ladies. The other female lead, Kate Tsui, looks great and performs her action scenes with aplomb. It is also wonderful to see two actors from another generation, Sammo Hung and Wu Ma, involved in 14 Blades. Sammo Hung, actor, fight choreographer, director extraordinary and legend of Hong Kong martial arts cinema should need no introduction to fans of the genre, and here he plays a straight dramatic role as the devious and scheming Prince Qing to good effect. Perhaps Wu Ma is lesser known, but he has appeared in over 200 films over many decades. No leading man, his prematurely weathered looks have relegated him to character parts and he has been involved in films with Sammo Hung for over four decades, and in such films as the fabulous Encounters of the Spooky Kind (Gui da gui (1980)) he looked hardly older than he does in 14 Blades. The appearances of these two in this film are treats for martial arts fans not to be missed.

     There are lots of other things to like in 14 Blades. The fights are kinetic, bloody and varied, ranging from a set piece attack on a fort with exploding arrows to numerous one on one duels, and the climax between Tuo Tuo and Qinglong in an underground tomb with statues and flying beams is excellent. There is also a new version of that martial arts staple, a fight in a tea house that destroys the place. All these fights do utilise generous amounts of wirework, and the CGI with Tuo Tuo’s clothing is rather silly, but in the context of the film they work well. The music by Henry Lai is also varied and interesting, providing good support to the visuals. If there is a down side it is the use of colour manipulation. Nearly every scene is affected; in some scenes the colour is desaturated to a cold blue, others have a sepia look, others impossible reds and blues. One scene, around 65:28, has a green filter, in other places, such as 8:34 or 9:25, the colour manipulation gives the characters purple lips. This excessive manipulation gives a very unreal feel to some of the sequences and does become distracting.

     Yet, when it is said and done, 14 Blades is great entertainment. It features kinetic and varied action sequences, impressive sets, a good score and a wonderful cast, with Zhao Wei and Donnie Yen outstanding. Add screen legends Sammo Hung and Wu Ma as a bonus and if you are interested in martial arts, or superior action films, you will enjoy 14 Blades.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Blu-ray of 14 Blades is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, in 1080p.

     The print has some problems. On the plus side, it is very sharp with crisp detail, solid blacks and excellent shadow detail allowing the action scenes set in dark places to be seen and understood. As noted, however, nearly all sequences have been colour manipulated, giving many an unnatural look such as the distracting purple lips. I did not see this film in the theatre so I cannot say how much of this is the filmmakers intention and what is authoring. Other things, however, are clearly the authoring with edge enhancement on show (see 18:52 and especially in the sequence round 97:08), plus an occasional halo effect. However, film artefacts were not present.

     English subtitles are in a smallish white font. I did not notice any spelling or grammatical errors but sometimes they flashed by too quickly to read fully and on other occasions, against a light background, they could be difficult to see.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is a choice of Chinese DTS MA HD 5.1 or Chinese Dolby Digital 2.0, surround encoded. The DTS is marvellously aggressive, giving an enveloping feel. Dialogue is clean and centred and the surrounds are in constant use with ambient sound effects, weather, battle sounds and music. Arrows fly around the room, as does gun fire and the sub is frequently in play with music, explosions, hooves, thunder and the destruction of scenery. In the portion sampled, the 2.0 was much softer and lacking in oomph.

     Lip synchronisation was erratic but not too distracting.

     The score by Henry Lai, using a variety of instruments and voices, provides good support for the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     The Blu-ray starts with a forced trailer for RED (1:47) before going to the menu.

Making of 14 Blades (20:48)

     Mainly people talking about their intentions, character and plot points so rather an EPK, made more interesting by the behind the scenes shots of stunts that play while the person talks. Involved in interviews are Daniel Lee (director), Cheung Tung Leung (DP), Susanna Tsang (producer), Henry Lai (composer), Ku Huen Chui (action director) and cast members Donnie Yen, Zhao Wei, Wu Chun, Kate Tsui and Qi Yuwu. The featurette finishes very abruptly in mid sentence.

Theatrical Trailer (2:36)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     I could not find at this time a Region A US Blu-ray listed. The Region B UK release is basically the same as ours, but with different trailers. The Region 0 Hong Kong release, which I own, has more audio options; Cantonese DTS MA HD 7.1, Dolby Digital True HD 7.1, PCM 7.1 and Mandarin DTS MA HD 7.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1. It has the “Making of”, theatrical trailer and a photo gallery of 14 movie stills. The making of is the same, but has only Chinese subtitles, not English, so is of no use to English speakers. The video suffers from the same issues as I noted for our release, although overall it is darker so the manipulation of colours is not quite so obvious, but the purple lips remain. No reason to go past our release unless the audio options are important.

Summary

     14 Blades features kinetic action scenes, impressive sets, a good score, and a wonderful cast. If you are interested in martial arts, or superior action filmmaking, you will enjoy 14 Blades.

     The video has some problems, the audio is good and aggressive, the extras are limited.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, September 08, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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