Donnie Yen stars (does this man ever rest!) in this Swordplay action movie 14 Blades directed by Daniel Lee and co-starring Vicky Zhao Wei, Wu Ma and Damian Lau.
During the Ming Dynasty, in order to consolidate all power and keep his bloodline on the throne, the Emperor established a secure system of defence for himself by taking young orphans off the street and training them to become his secret sect of bodyguards.
Called Jinyiwei, the Guards, led by the most skilled of their number, Qinglong (Donnie Yen). Bestowed upon him as the leader is a box containing 14 steel blades, eight of which are to be used for interrogation and the remaining six for execution. When the Imperial Court is invaded by the evil eunuch Jia, Qinglong is assigned to steal a list identifying those still loyal to the Emperor.
But unknown to him, the Jinyiwei themselves have fallen under the control of Jia, who, together with a rebel Prince Qing (Sammo Hung), is plotting to rebel against the Emperor and seize power.
During his mission to obtain the list, Qinglong is betrayed by his own men and after escaping becomes the most wanted man in the land. But he must seek out and rally the loyalists to rise against Jia and restore the Emperor to power. But standing before him are the deadliest assassins in the land – his former colleagues, the Jinyiwei swordsmen.
One of the better swordplay action films to have come out of Hong Kong for a while, 14 Blades has a great story and a lone hero in Donnie Yen, master of his art he is torn between his mission and his growing love for the daughter of the boss of a courier company who helped him.
The cinematography is excellent and the fight scenes well staged and equally brutal. It was nominated for Best Action Choreography at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Watch for a great cameo from Chen Kuan Tai whose fight in the woods is one of the highlights. The only downside is some dodgy CGI enhancement for the main sexy villainess which does not quite gel with the rest of the action.
The Blu ray release from Icon has a good 1080p transfer with very little edge enhancement. The sound is DTS master audio 5.1 in Mandarin with forced English subtitles. Extras are just a small interview with cast and crew and trailers. It is region locked to Code B. Also available on DVD.
7 OUT OF 10