A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dragon Blade is a martial arts battle epic that takes place around 50 B.C. and is based on a true story. Starring Jackie Chan and John Cusack, it features lots of action and fairly graphic violence, with bloody wounds and blood sprays, arrows piercing bodies, and broken and severed limbs. Plus tons of fighting with swords, spears, and arrows, as well as boulders and other handy items. The soldiers also drink enthusiastically after battles, and there's a bit of sexual innuendo when a character catches a falling woman by cupping her breasts. Despite the brutal violence, the movie has strong messages about teamwork and friendship. It's worth noting that the official U.S. release 21was trimmed by 25 minutes, and the storytelling suffers as a consequence.
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What's the story?
Somewhere around 50 B.C., the Protection Squad, led by Captain Huo An (Jackie Chan), attempts to maintain peace on the Silk Road near China. An army of Roman soldiers arrives, and general Lucius (John Cusack) picks a fight with Huo An. A sandstorm interrupts, and Huo An takes advantage of the situation to befriend Lucius. He learns that Lucius is a fugitive who's on the run from the evil Tiberius (Adrien Brody) because Lucius rescued Tiberius' younger brother from his sibling's jealousy and treachery. When the Protection Squad is betrayed and forced into labor, the outcast Romans help. A bond of friendship is formed, which may be all that protects the heroes from the vengeful Tiberius' awesome armies.
Is it any good?
This Chinese battle epic features exciting, show-stopping fight scenes, but the storytelling in between is almost non-existent, as if lazily looking for ways to kill the time. (Given that the official U.S. release of DRAGON BLADE was trimmed by 25 minutes, it's possible that the original 127-minute cut was more cohesive.) Chan headed up planning the fight scenes, and even after so many years in the business, he's conjured up some beauties -- including a sequence in which Huo An saves his family with a length of blue silk and another in which the captain practices a choreographed battle-ballet with his men.
While Chan gets some good moments with his heroic, dignified character, Cusack looks pained trying to get through his dialogue, and Brody winds up with the short end of the stick as the sneering, one-dimensional villain. Some of the bit players are even more abysmal, shouting random lines designed as padding. Indeed, the movie's rhythm and editing seem entirely arbitrary. Better to skip this and look for the original cut.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Dragon Blade's violence. Which parts of the movie were thrilling, and which were gruesome and/or troubling? Does exposure to violent media desensitize kids to violence?
What are the movie's messages about cooperation and friendship? In what ways do characters work together well? Is there a disconnect having this kind of message in such a violent movie?
How does Huo An compare to other characters Jackie Chan has played? Is he a role model?
How is drinking portrayed in the movie?
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