Kung fu tussle

14 Blades offers romance, plenty of hunks and beauties plus heart-stopping action to draw in the crowd
by Sharon Wong

COMEDIES are the usual cinematic fare for Chinese New Year but if you are game for something different this year, check out 14 Blades.

It offers a touch of romance, and plenty of hunks and beauties in the form of kungfu master Donnie Yen, singer-turned-actor Wu Chun (of the Taiwanese group Fahrenheit), Vickie Zhao and Kate Tsui. There is also heart-stopping action to boot.

Director Daniel Lee is confident these will draw in the crowd to his movie about the Jinyiwei, an elite group of secret service men in the Ming Dynasty who answer only to the Emperor.

A betrayal causes the head of the Jinyiwei to go on the run, pursued by deadly enemies. Along the way, he finds love, and discovers his duty and above all, himself.

Lee, who was in town recently with Wu Chun to promote the movie, admitted that Donnie Yen was his choice to play the lead character of Qing Long right from the beginning.

"Everybody knows he’s one of the top martial arts actors around. But he also has that aura that can lean towards either good or evil.

"As a villain, he instils fear in anybody who looks upon him but when he changes to good, he is also believable. That initial villain image is important for the movie and Donnie is perfect in that."

As for Wu, who plays the leader of a band of desert thieves, Lee said he wanted to bring out another side of the young singer to the audience.

"Wu already has a certain image as a singer. In this movie, there will be more to him than what people normally see. Wu is able to give that extra as a desert thief in search of something more, to the audience."

Wu felt that this movie is an important milestone for him. He sees it as a stepping stone to show off his other capabilities. "I’ve seen and learned a lot in this movie. "It’s an invaluable experience for me and it will help me prepare for future roles."

In preparation to execute the martial moves required of him in the movie, where he fights not only with Yen but also Kate Tsui, Wu not only took up martial arts training that focused on swordplay but also watched the others in action.

"The director was very clear on what he wanted and I tried to capture the feel of the character by observing and learning from others," he said. "I also loved the martial arts training. I had studied boxing as well as some martial arts before so it was not much of a problem."

However, Wu admitted that the idea of fighting with Yen put him under some pressure. "It was all real fighting," he revealed, "requiring speed and strength. Afterwards, I was blue and black all over. We didn’t want to use stand-ins and although the risk of getting hurt was there, it was fortunate we weren’t hurt.

"However, I was not so much afraid of getting hurt but of not putting in enough effort and not being good enough."

The fighting scenes between him and Tsui were a little different, with more wires and beautiful poses and moves. With a dance base behind both of them, they were a delight to watch.

Tsui’s character Tuo Tuo uses a thin long sword that is wrapped around her when not in use. She also wears a seven-layered veil-like slough, which she sheds as a weapon during battle. when she does that, she causes her enemy to hallucinate and ‘see’ several images of Tuo Tuo.

Tsui is the epitome of grace as she goes through her moves and Lee could not be more pleased with his choice of her as Tuo Tuo.

"Kate is really good in dance although she’s not so adept at martial arts. Her moves are sexy and beautiful and with her slanted eyes and make-up, she is the image of the devil woman," Lee said.

Tsui was initially apprehensive about taking up the role and had said it gave her a certain amount of pressure, especially since this was her first time in an action movie.

In addition to the excellent action scenes, the audience is in for another visual treat as they get to see the three actors in certain stages of undress.

But Lee was quick to point out that for Yen and Tsui, the scenes were absolutely necessary as they went with the flow of the movie.
"The characters they play are born to serve in every way and they belong only to their masters and are tattooed accordingly. We wanted to show that off.

"As for Wu Chun, well, I couldn’t very well let him off the hook!"

Wu had no qualms showing off his abs as he has been working out regularly since the age of 16 (he is, after all, the owner of a gym back home in Brunei).

But Wu is still envious of Yen’s physique as well as his devotion to maintaining it. "Most of us are tired at the end of filming but Yen will take the time to work out."

As for the movie’s theme being a little out of the usual Chinese New Year genre, Lee said that there is a message in the movie and he wants to get that across to the public.

"Although it starts out being a little dark, the message is that if there is hope, there is happiness."

And who would deny an abundance of happiness in the coming Year of the Tiger, or anytime of the year either.

14 Blades is now screening in cinemas. It is distributed by RAM Entertainment and presented by TM (Telekom Malaysia).

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