14 Blades 锦衣卫(2010)


14 Blades (锦衣卫 jǐnyīwèi) is a 2010 Hong Kong wuxia film directed by Daniel Lee and starring Donnie Yen (甄子丹 Zhēn Zǐdān), Zhao Wei (赵薇 Zhào Wēi), Wu Chun (吴尊 Wú Zūn), Kate Tsui (徐子珊 Xú Zǐshān)and Qi Yuwu (戚玉武 Qī Yùwǔ). The film was released on February 4 in China and February 11 in Hong Kong. It received mixed reviews with critics focusing on their praise on actor Donnie Yen and Zhao Wei.


During the late Ming Dynasty, the Chinese imperial court is plagued by corruption as eunuchs usurp state power and the reigning emperor is deemed incompetent. The Jinyi Wei (literally: Brocade-clad Guards) is the government’s secret police, trained in clandestine combat since childhood, they are in charge of conducting missions to ensure peace and stability within the empire. They have the authority to prosecute anyone deemed as an enemy of the state and they devote their lives and lethal prowess to serving the emperor only. When the organization was first founded, the Jinyi Wei took orders directly from the emperor, but now they are under the control of the eunuch faction. The chief eunuch Jia Jingzhong is plotting with an exiled noble, Prince Qing, to rebel against the emperor and seize power. Jia orders Qinglong, the Jinyi Wei chief, to kill the Imperial Councilor Zhao Shenyan and take Zhao’s safebox, which supposedly contains a list of names of traitors.

However, Qinglong discovers later that he had been used, as the safebox contains the Imperial Seal, a symbol of the emperor’s authority, and Jia wants to use it to legitimize Prince Qing’s actions for convenience when the rebellion begins. Qinglong is betrayed by his fellow guards and becomes a fugitive when Jia denounces him as a traitor and issues an order for his arrest. Qinglong escapes and joins the Justice Escort Agency, where he strikes up a romantic relationship with Qiao Hua, the daughter of the agency’s leader. Qinglong is determined to fulfill his loyalty to the emperor and continues to search for evidence of Prince Qing’s rebellion plot and undermining Qing’s plans. He is joined by the Heaven Eagles Gang, a group of bandits led by the Judge of the Sands. Standing in Qinglong’s way are Jia Jingzhong’s lackeys and his former Jinyi Wei fellows, as well as Prince Qing’s goddaughter Tuotuo, a highly-skilled female warrior.


14 Blades premiered in China and Singapore on February 4, 2010 and in Hong Kong on February 11. The film premiered at seventh place in the Hong Kong Box Office grossing $317,975 in its first week. It grossed a total of $984,711 at the Hong Kong box office. The film was successful in Singapore where it was first in the box office on its second week grossing a total of $1,126,692 on its theatrical run.The film grossed a worldwide total of $3,676,875.


14 Blades was nominated for Best Action Choreography and Best Sound Design at the 29th Hong Kong Film Awards.The China Post praised the star Donnie Yen’s acting ability and stated that the film was generally entertaining but criticized the action scenes, saying “you never actually clearly see even one of the 14 blades. Unlike a really decent martial arts film, in which the battle scenes are well choreographed and you see the majority of the action, this film’s fight scenes were only dynamic.” Film Business Asia gave the film a six out of ten, stating that 14 Blades has a “script that becomes increasingly incoherent and restless editing that grows more and more distracting” and that the action scenes were “largely dependant on wire-fu and CG (especially Kate Tsui’s clothes-shedding technique)…when [Donnie] Yen is allowed to show his skills properly…14 Blades starts to look like the film it could have been.”

Variety called 14 Blades an “above-average martial-arts actioner that reinforces Donnie Yen’s “Man With No Name” ambience.”, “Despite the circumstances, Qiao Hua falls in love with her captor, a development made believable by Zhao’s warm and affecting perf. Yen’s Eastwood-like poise is used to good effect here, and the romantic tension keeps the narrative effectively taut between the battle sequences.”The Hollywood Reporter wrote that that the film “would have ended a mediocre film if not for the inventively designed and utilized weaponry (especially the titular 14 blades with different functions)” and had mixed reaction to the acting in the film, calling Donnie Yen’s “stiff and steely demeanor actually works to his role’s favor. The love interest with Qiaohua is lame, especially with Zhao sleepwalking through another typecast role as playful, tomboyish heroine.”Beyond Hollywood said “Chinese period cinema mainstay Vicki Zhao has done so many of these movies that it’s probably second nature to her by now. Besides last year’s “Mulan”, Zhao also had a substantial role in John Woo’s historical epic “Red Cliff”, and before that, the supernatural period actioner “Painted Skin”. But she probably kicked off her current streak of “cute girl with expressive eyes and soulful disposition stuck in a man’s world” roles in 2003’s “Warriors of Heaven and Earth”. To her credit, Zhao’s scenes with Yen reminds us of just how far Yen still has to go as an actor, as well as how good Zhao is playing this familiar archetype.”

Awards and nominations

29th Hong Kong Film Awards

Nominated: Best Action Choreography (Guk Hin-chiu)

Nominated: Best Sound Design (Ken Wong and Phyllis Cheng)

17th Beijing Student Film Festival

Won: Favorite Actress (Zhao Wei)

19th Shanghai Film Critics Awards

Won: Best Actress (Zhao Wei) also for Mulan

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