Saturday, 26 March 2011

DVD: 14 BLADES (2010), TRUE LEGEND (2010)

Wuxia (pronounced: Wushu -unless I've got it completely wrong) movies are essentially all fantasy. As soon as martial arts come into play it's not long before the laws of physics (particularly that of gravity) are broken as fighters perform impossible jumps, somersaults, and even appear to levitate as skip from leafy branch to leafy branch as if they were on a road. All main characters involved in martial arts fights have superhuman speed and agility and can recover from damage (such as three arrows going completely through the body and out the other side) when a normal person would die instantly. Like I said, fantasy.

True Legend, despite supposedly being a true story, nevetheless still fits the bill. Set in the 1800s when Europeans loomed large in China, it tells the story of Beggar Sue. It's a very episodic tale and, as such, lacks the narrative drive of other wuxia movies. Here he is performing impossible feats as he rescues a Prince. Here he is returning to live a quiet life only to have his father killed by his adoptive brother and badly wounded. Rescued by his wife, he's helped by herbalist and cliff abseiler Michelle Yeoh (in a cameo). Here he is becoming a drunk. Here is... and so on until the end. It's quite well done with great action sequences and you would expect no less when directed by Yuen Woo Ping, but it didn't greatly grab me.

To be honest, I couldn't really follow the set up at first of 14 Blades, but it's basically this. A group of hard core enforcers of the Emperor are betrayed and only the leader survives to carry an important message to someone else important. The 14 blades are all contained in basically a magical box (it is mechanical but utterly impossible in its construction -fantasy) and wielded by the betrayed leader our hero. 

Once it settled down into a chase format with lots of fights as our hero gains friends and allies and does battle with his enemies with the worst one being a whip-wielding woman, then its fine. This is the one where he recovers from three arrows being shot through him. There's always something going on to hold the interest and it's quite well made.

There's even a sort of love story. Chinese love stories in wuxia tend to be a bit different however. She glances coyly. He sternly doesn't notice she exists. They fight tentatively. He pretends he isn't interested in her. They have a fight which involves lot of gravity-defying action. He admits that she isn't completely unbearable to have around. She glances coyly.

All in all this is a generally efficient piece of wuxia.

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