Dragon Blade (Tian jiang xiong shi) (Blu-ray) (2015)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 20-Jul-2016

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 103:39
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Daniel Lee
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Jackie Chan
John Cusack
Adrien Brody
Lin Peng
Mika Wang
Josef Liu Waite


Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Henry Lai


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     China, around 50 BC; Huo An (Jackie Chan) leads a squad of soldiers tasked with protecting the peoples of the Silk Road. Huo An, however, sees his role as more than protection as he seeks to promote peace between the various ethnic groups along the Road. As Dragon Blade (Tian jiang xiong shi) starts, Huo and his squad intercede in a battle between two groups, urging a peaceful resolution, which Huo achieves only after he manages to defeat female warrior Cold Moon (Lin Peng) in single combat. Huo’s wife Xiuqing (Mika Wang) teaches children and shares Huo’s vision of peace and fellowship along the Silk Road. However, when Huo and his squad are falsely accused of smuggling they are sent into exile into the far desert with instructions to help repair the fort at Wild Geese Gate.

     Wild Geese Gate is a rundown fort and town with a mixed population. Huo and his squad help with the rebuilding but have not been there long before a Roman legion led by General Lucius (John Cusack), hungry, thirsty and bringing with them a sick young boy Publius (Josef Liu Waite), march out of the desert. After initial hostility, and a combat between Lucius and Huo, the Romans are admitted to the fort and a tentative friendship begins. Indeed, the Romans use their superior engineering skills to help repair Wild Geese Gate.

     It transpires that Publius is heir apparent to the consulship of Rome, but was poisoned by his older brother, the brutal and treacherous Tiberius (Adrien Brody); to save Publius, Lucius rescued the boy with his legion and disappeared up the Silk Road, staying just ahead of Tiberius and his army. Now, with Tiberius’ imminent arrival, Huo and the other ethnic groups along the Silk Road must decide whether to band together against Tiberius or to accept Roman (well Tiberius’) overlordship of the Silk Road. Either way, there will be changed allegiances, betrayals, death and bloodshed along the Silk Road.

     Dragon Blade is an expansive, action packed epic adventure from writer / director Daniel Lee, a director who is no stranger to action epics with films such as Three Kingdoms (2008) and 14 Blades (2010) already on his CV. Dragon Blade adds a couple of western stars in John Cusack and Adrien Brody into this Chinese martial arts film, presumably to get the film a wider audience, but I would say that neither look particularly at home and the undoubted star here is Jackie Chan who, although he is getting on and looking more his age, still has more than enough charisma, physical presence and moves, not to mention acting skills, to easily carry the film.

     Dragon Blade feels like a longer film from which sections have been cut; for example the relationship between Cold Moon and Huo is not developed and at one place the film suddenly diverges into Huo turning up unexpectedly to try to save his wife. There are also betrayals that just seem to occur and characters such as Yin Po (Siwon Choi) that really need more explanation. I did not see the film at the theatre but did watch it on a long-haul flight and remember that the film had a bookend sequence set in 2015 where a team of archaeologists using modern equipment discover the remains of the Wild Geese Gate. As far as I know, that sequence is not on any Blu-ray.

     Dragon Blade looks sumptuous courtesy of cinematographer Tony Cheung although some of the CGI is less than impressive. There is also some rather clunky dialogue but on the whole Dragon Blade blends humour, pathos, unexpected deaths, and action that is frenetic and bloody and brutal in places using slow motion, jump cuts, angles off the horizontal and martial music to provide an exciting, and sometimes poignant, motion picture.

     Dragon Blade opens with a screen saying that it was “inspired by true events” but seeing that this period in Rome saw the start of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey the Roman background is dodgy at best. There have been myths about a lost Roman legion along the Silk Road which have been largely discredited by scholars, but I guess this is where the “inspiration”, if not the events, of the story in the film lie. Dragon Blade is certainly a lot of fun and very entertaining, but as usual it is best to forget the history and enjoy the action and the visuals.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

     Dragon Blade is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     This is a sumptuous print. The colours have been manipulated which results in a very glossy yellow sheen in most daylight scenes and a very bluish look at night. Wide and distance shots with obvious CGI look softish but close-ups of armour, costumes, facial hair, blood and wounds are strong. Blacks and shadow detail is pristine, skin tones are very yellow while brightness and contrast is consistent.

     I did not notice any artefacts or marks.

     Subtitles provided are English and English for the Hearing Impaired.

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

Audio

     Audio is a combination Mandarin / English (with a bit of Latin) DTS-HD MA 5.1.

     The section where the Chinese talk among themselves are in Mandarin, the Europeans speak English as do the Chinese when the Europeans are present. Dialogue was clear and the surrounds and rears provided an enveloping and immersive experience with horses hooves, cries and impacts during fights and battles, the crash of debris, the “thunk” of arrows and the epic, martial score by Henry Lai. The subwoofer appropriated supported the impacts, hooves, crashed and the music.

     I noticed some occasional lip synchronisation errors.

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

Extras

     There are no extras.

R4 vs R1

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

     The Region A US Blu-ray of Dragon Blade includes an EPK type behind the scenes featurette (21:28), two music videos (3:14 / 4:10), the film’s trailer (2:02) and a whopping 56:13 worth of interviews with the cast and crew, making it the preferred choice.

Summary

     Dragon Blade may be doubtful history but it is a sumptuous, epic historical action film with chaotic action sequences, some surprisingly poignant moments, unexpected deaths and a charismatic performance by the one and only Jackie Chan.

     The video and the audio are very good. No extras of any sort.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Saturday, November 25, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD 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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE