Nominated for both Best Action Choreography and Best Sound Design at the 29th Hong Kong Film Awards, “14 Blades” did very well in Asia especially in Singapore. Zhao Wei won Best Actress at the Shanghai Film Critics Awards like she did for Mulan the year before.

In 14 Blades, Donnie Yen stars as Qinglong, the commander of Jinyiwei, meaning Brocade Guards as in the Chinese title. They are the Ming Dynasty’s secret police force, very ruthless and have full authority to kill anyone who’s against the Emperor. All the members are orphans, trained from an early age in cruel conditions to become the best cold blooded killers.

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Qinglong is given a box that has fourteen specialized blades to carry out his missions. Eight blades are used for torture and interrogations, while five more blades are used for killing purposes, there is one special golden blade, designed for the sole purpose of both a failed mission and suicide.

During a mission to retrieve a box which is supposed to contain proof of revolt against the Emperor, Qinglong is betrayed and wounded, but he manages to escape with the box which actually contains the Imperial Royal Seal. In order to escape the city, he seeks the help of an escort agency for a safe passage. Now, the once commander of an elite force has become a fugitive, hunted his own Jinyiwei and a deadly lady assassin.

Donnie Yen looks great as Qinglong, with his six pack torso, tattoos and the Jinyiwei uniform. He really looks the part in this action packed wuxia fantasy movie, despite his stiff acting and steely looks. Even more so when the fighting kicks in, after all, we are here to see him fight.

The beautiful Zhao Wei adds a bit of love interest and romance into the mix. She plays Qiao Hua, the daughter of the escort agency run by Qiao Yong, wonderfully played by Shaw Brother veteran, Wu Ma. Qiao Hua is a playful, tomboyish heroine character and Zhao does a good job here, just like she did in “Mulan” before.

There is a nice but short cameo from Sammo Hung, who plays Prince Qing. He plots rebellion against the Emperor, which leads to the exile of Qinglong. In order to retrieve the Royal Seal, he also sends his daughter Tuotuo (played by Kate Tsui). Tuotuo is an assassin, highly skilled in deception and speedy combats, her weapon is a long, razor sharp metal whip which she uses to perfection. Wu Chun plays Judge of the Desert, an interesting gang leader character, who likes to challenge Qinglong and they both end up being allies. Judge also carries a deadly weapon which is a combination of blade and boomerang.

“14 Blades” is beautiful to look at, thanks to director Daniel Lee’s appealing visuals, may it be the outdoor desert and forest settings or the indoor shots, which are very moody with strong light and dark contrasts. It has gorgeous costumes, especially those worn by the Jinyiwei, assassin Tuotuo and Qiao Hua. The vast variety and creative weapons used her is also a welcome bonus.

However, the highlight of the movie has to be the fight between Qinglong and another Shaw Brother veteran Chen Kuan Tai who plays a hired killer. Weapons were used at first and then they switched to hand to hand, topping this with amazing sound effects, it really is something to behold. Unfortunately, it was over very quickly and leaving you wanting more.

Overall, I recommend “14 Blades: to any wuxia fantasy movie fan, it has a bit of romance, plenty of amazing action, seldom seen outdoor desert setting, beautiful costumes and all the actors do their parts well.