14 Blades 錦衣衛
By James Topley, The China Post
February 5, 2010, 9:36 am TWN
As incredible as this is to watch, it's also a bad thing, because it's never explained how she can do these 'cloaking' tricks that fool even Qin Long, as well as Wu Chun (吳尊) as Judge, the leader of the stupidly named Sand Bandits. The story dissolves someway into the film as the disparity between battle sequences and the stagnant plot increases. Unfortunately each twist and turn seems only to serve as another avenue for further battle scenes spiraling almost out of control.
The action scenes were unfortunately hard to distinguish, as everything flashes before your eyes and you never actually clearly see even one of the 14 blades. Unlike a really decent martial arts film, in which the battle scenes are well choreographed and you see the majority of the action, this film's fight scenes were only dynamic.
The action shots were way too choppy, and always super-close up to the lens so that everything looks fast and dynamic and visual. Unfortunately this means that after a five-minute eye-popping sequence, you haven't a clue what just happened. You have to assume these 'skilled' fighters win due to magical abilities rather than just pure fluke. Also some sequences were deliberately slowed down to create a gruesome visual stimuli, however maintaining a fast paced audio gave the illusion of high speed battles, but its distinctly unconvincing.
Despite all this and the rather far-fetched Wuxia plot, this movie did entertain due to its easy going format. Initially the film is dark and foreboding, quickly followed by a vicious battle and then during the middle section, it softens out, becoming more humorous and lighthearted which definitely made the super close-up visuals slightly easier to bear.
Though it's far from perfection, especially due to confusing flashback sequences and over-the-top CGI explosions, Donnie Yen does an amicable job pulling the movie through some difficult situations, yet it suffers mostly from lack of a narrative, so the action eventually feels disjointed and irrelevant.