The film genre wuxia sure makes for some head scratching and downright boring cinema. While some are easier to follow than others, there’s always one that winds up so boring your mind wanders when you should be reading the subtitles. In the case of the Donnie Yen-starring 14 Blades, it’s a miracle if you can make it to the end credits. For hardcore Yen fans, Starz/Anchor Bay is at least giving them another title to add to their Blu-ray collection on September 9.
Yen stars as Qinglong, the leader of a group of secret guardians known as Jinyiwei — children born and bred to protect the high court. Qinglong is also the keeper of our titular weapon consisting of a case wielding eight blades used for interrogation and four more for execution. Qinglong is sent on a mission where the convoluted plot kicks into gear when plans go wrong and he’s left to fend for himself. Qinglong winds up in a relationship of sorts with Qiao Hua (Zhao Wei), and they must band together to save themselves and, ultimately, the country.
14 Blades slices its way onto Blu-ray on a 25GB disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Unfortunately for Yen fans, this is an outright horrible transfer. I don’t think I’ve seen one this bad since Muay Thai Warrior. While not as bad as that, it appears that Starz/Anchor Bay weren’t given much to work with but an old DVD to upconvert. DNR (Digital Noise Reduction) plagues the picture, either stripping grain completely or freezing it onscreen. And man, we could call the transfer “Edge Enhancement Gone Wild!” if we really wanted to; most of the time, characters look like they were cut and pasted onto the backgrounds. Not to mention, that due to the DNR, they’ve cranked the artificial sharpening up to 11.
Thankfully, the Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track kicks the video quality’s butt. Surrounds are on full alert, immersing you into the action with some great moments of rumbling bass. While the action and music may sometimes overwhelm the dialogue, there are English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles available. There are zero special features. The film’s menu is preceded with trailers for The Grandmaster, Dragon, and Man of Tai Chi.
Writer/director Daniel Lee pits Yen in a convoluted tale against China’s Ming Dynasty, but has thrown in way too much CGI wire stunt work, cobbling together incoherent action scenes that only seem to be there to wake up the audience. If you’re looking for a quick Donnie Yen fix, there are already way better films on the Blu-ray market worthy of rental or purchase — see either Ip Man films or even Special ID. And in case you happen to own this on DVD, don’t be surprised if that looks better upscaled than this so-called 1080p transfer. Sadly, I have to recommend skipping this.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00L6AW1IW]