Film: Dragon Sword | Cast: Jackie Chan, John Cusack, Adrian Brody | Director: Daniel Lee | Rating: ***
If you’re the kind of person who cracks up when you catch old dubbed Bruce Lee movies with terrible voice sync, then Dragon Blade will be your Roast Night. Shot originally in Mandarin and dubbed rather clumsily into English, Jackie Chan’s latest celluloid outing is caught between two worlds. Both figuratively and literally.
Chan plays Huo An, the leader of this bunch of boundary raiders who keep the peace between the 36 always-at-loggerheads nations along the Silk Route. Not quite the violent sort, Huo’s troops keep jumping in the middle when wars are about to erupt and breaking up the fight quickly. This much is all right, it’s vintage Chan - bumbling, funny, almost self-deprecatory humour but a man who can pack a mean Oriental swordfight - reminiscent of his Shanghai Knights days.
And then it all comes undone. The plot goes all over the place - with a set-up, incarceration, rebuilding of a city outpost, emotional forays into memories past and a fleeing Roman General’s revenge drama thrown into the mix. John Cusack, who plays General Lucius, fits the role of a hunted, beleaguered, ageing Roman commander to the hilt. After a brief sword fight, Huo and Lucius (and their respective outfits) bond, as soldiers and men. This is where the film really starts to drag, as we sit through two songs - the latter sung by the cherubic child of the Roman Consul who controls the Parthian Empire.
Adrian Brody (Tiberius) and his crack cohort arrive to kill the kid - his own younger brother - so that he can inherit everything therein. About an hour’s worth of fighting, skirmishing and drum-beating later we reach the exhausting final clash between Huo and Tiberius. No prizes for guessing who won.
Cusack and Chan have put in decent performances, but the story is a little too convoluted to capitalize on it. The sets are worthy of any period flick worth it’s salt, though a lot of war sequences are not quite as impressive - perhaps because most of it looks like they’re computer generated. As with most Chan movies, the stunts are great, but the VFX guys really need to stop shoving swords on an arc that slice through the air in 3D space - it’s getting super old.