March 4, 2012

Blu-ray Review: Blade of Kings

A bunch of years ago I learned of a movie called The Twins Effect. It was a big budget summer action vehicle that pitted pop stars The Twins (Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung) against vampires. It's star power was padded with Edison Chen, Eking Cheng, and a special appearance by Jackie Chan. The movie was fun but shallow. It proved popular enough upon its release in 2003 that a sequel was quickly put into production. The result was The Twins Effect II, again starring The Twins and banking on their popularity. Joining them again are Edison Chen and Jackie Chan, they are joined by the likes of Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Donnie Yen. Quite the star studded affair. The story has nothing to do with the first one but they are both rather fun in a simple way.

By now you are probably wondering why I am talking about these Twins Effect movies when this movie is called Blade of Kings. The answer is pretty simple, considering that the phenomenon of The Twins is a Hong Kong thing, those titles have no meaning in the United States, or at least very little. I know I had never heard of them prior to learning of the first movie. This being the case, the first film was released State-side as The Vampire Effect and the sequel was named for a primary part of the plot rather than the stars, taking the title Blade of Kings. To add a little anecdote to this, when I got my hands on this disk, I had no idea it was The Twins Effect II, I only discovered that when I was looking it up on IMDB.

As the movie opens, we are introduced to a fantasy world at some point in the past. The main city is ruled by an evil Empress who does not like or trust men. Men are referred to as dumbbells and they are not allowed in the city. They are sold as slave labor for performing manual tasks and for having children with but they are not to be loved. One of the traders is named 13th Young Master (Charlene Choi) and her business is interrupted by a royal bodyguard named Blue Bird (Gillian Chung) who is in pursuit of a thief played by Edison Chen.

Donnie Yen interrupts the chase, frees the dumbbells and makes off. This leaves 13th Young Master to face off with Blue Bird as she fights for her business. The fight goes on for a while before another guard, Red Vulture shows up, stops the fight and everyone goes their separate ways. This allows the story to start taking shape.

The item the thief stole is a stone tablet that is destined to find its way to the hands of the man foretold to become king. The empress is afraid of losing power so she sends Blue Bird on a mission to make sure the prophecy does not come to pass. Meanwhile, 13th Young Master is charged with finding a certain man for one of the Empress' generals. Before long the two woman are teamed up as their missions eem to be heading the same path. They are also joined by a couple of young men, Charcoal Head (Jaycee Chan, son of Jackie Chan) and Blockhead (Wilson Chen).

They are faced with many obstacles on their journey, which revels itself to actually by a treasure where a mystical, Excalibur-like sword is said to exist. Once they find it, the new king will lead an uprising against the evil empress.

This movie helps prove that Hollywood has not quite cornered the market on shallow, action and effects driven summer blockbuster type moves. This is not a terribly deep film and seems only made to serve as a star vehicle for The Twins in Hong Kong, and a moderately entertaining diversion for the rest of the world.

Don't get me wrong, I did not hate the movie, it is actually rather fun, but only in a surface fashion. I cannot say I really cared about the story or the characters. I just enjoyed being swept along in its wake. It brings together action, comedy, adventure, and romance in one slick, brightly colored package.

The acting is not all that great, tending to being a little overdone and goofy. There are a couple of nice action sequences, particularly the opening fight between Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung, and the too-short fight between Jackie Chan and Donnie Yen. The story is a little silly and and the effects are often not of the highest caliber. Still, I found it hard not to enjoy it on a superficial manner.

Audio/Video. The film is presented in a ratio of 1.78:1 and looks pretty good. This is a brightly colored and lit movie with only a few scenes in darkness. The jump to high definition has been good for the film. The colors are all highly saturated and finely detailed. The movie benefits from elaborate costume and set design. There is no one scene to point you towards as this a uniformly strong looking transfer, whether in close up or not it looks really good.

The audio is presented in its original Cantonese and English dub by DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 tracks. The dub is fine for what it is, but the Cantonese is really the way to go to get the full effect of the film. The dialogue is nice and clear and there is some nice use of surrounds with the myriad sound effects employed throughout, particularly during the Yen/Chan fight.

Extras. There is not a lot to speak of here. There is a 12-minute behind the scenes piece hosted by The Twins talking about the film with some behind the scenes clips. Next is a music video of film clips set to music by The Twins. Rounding out the extra material is a pair of trailers used to promote the film.

Bottomline. Not great, not terrible, just a fluffy little fun movie that serves as a decent cinematic diversion. If you can get by some of the bad performances (Jaycee Chan in particular), it proves to be rather innocuous fun.

Mildly Recommended.

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Blade of Kings on Blogcritics.

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