Hong Kong filmmaker Daniel Lee’s historical war epic Tian Jiang Xiong Shi – known as Dragon Blade for its upcoming release in the U.S. – became an international box office success story when it opened in China in Spring 2015. To date, it’s grossed around $120 million in the country, which is good enough for it to currently rank among the top five hits there released this year (so far). Dragon Blade probably won’t repeat that act stateside, though, as it’s going to debut in theaters the same day that it becomes available On Demand.
Dragon Blade takes place during the Han dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.), as the Roman leader Tiberius (Adrien Brody) marches on the Silk Road – the network of trade routes connecting China with countries on its western border and beyond – with the intent of seizing control for himself. Jackie Chan stars as Huo An, the commander of an elite pack of warriors, which joins forces with a group of defected Roman soldiers and their leader, General Lucius (John Cusack), in the hope of stopping Tiberius and restoring order to the region.
An international preview for Dragon Blade has been online for several months, but now the official U.S. trailer (complete with the MPAA green band of approval) has been made available too. Dragon Blade, judging by the footage on display, is very much an East meets West tale, both in terms of the narrative and the visual aesthetic; its blend of swords and sandals action with martial arts, set against an Asian desert backdrop (the movie was filmed in Hengdian) not that different than your average U.S. western setting, comes off as fairly seamless, in the trailer. It doesn’t have too much of a “budget look” either (despite being made for $65 million – a relatively low sum for a sweeping war epic).
Variety‘s Maggie Lee was pretty complimentary towards Dragon Blade‘s production design and visual style with her review too, where she refers to the film as “a sumptuously realized war epic… colossal entertainment with solid technique and terrific storytelling smarts.” Nonetheless, Lee’s review also notes that the the movie (both written and directed by Lee) plays as fast and loose with historical fact as similar Hollywood fare like the 300 franchise has, but goes a bit lighter on the familiar swords and sandals tropes (see: having characters deliver lots of speechified dialogue). And while Chan and Cusack do fine work, it sounds as though Brody’s as hammy in the movie as he comes off in the Dragon Blade trailers (all jokes about his hair aside).
Rounding out Dragon Blade‘s international cast are such names as Australian thespian Sharni Vinson (Step Up 3D), as well as Asian starlets Alice Aoki (The Tale of The Princess Kaguya) and Peng Lin (Little Big Soldier). The film is unlikely to have the broad appeal of more westernized historical war epics (like 300), but for the fans of this sub-genre and/or those who prefer Jackie Chan’s non-Hollywood projects, this one sounds like it could be worth a look.
Dragon Blade opens in select U.S. theaters and will be available On Demand starting September 4th, 2015.
Source: Lionsgate Premiere