(China - 2015)
Written and directed by Daniel Lee. Cast: Jackie Chan, John Cusack, Adrien Brody, Sharni Vinson, William Feng, Lin Peng, Mika Wang, Lorie Pester, Siwon Choi, Xiao Yang, Sammy Hung, Jozef Liu Waite. (R, 104 mins)
When the $65 million IMAX 3-D Chinese epic DRAGON BLADE became a blockbuster hit throughout Asia in February 2015, it didn't take long for a badly photo-shopped trade poster to explode on the internet thanks to the presence of John Cusack as a Roman centurion and Adrien Brody as a villainous nobleman in 50 B.C. Many even questioned if the poster was some kind of prank. No, it's a real movie, primarily a vehicle for star/producer Jackie Chan who, aside from his KUNG FU PANDA voice work, hasn't headlined an American film since the 2010 remake of THE KARATE KID. The 61-year-old action legend has instead settled into a series of generally serious Asian films like the period epic 1911 (2011) and typical--albeit with less death-defying stuntwork--Chan outings like CHINESE ZODIAC and the recently-released POLICE STORY: LOCKDOWN. DRAGON BLADE was a pet project for Chan, a story of disgraced warriors who team with an outcast faction of the Roman Army to defeat a power-crazed despot intent on taking control of the famed Silk Road.
INAPPROPRIATE COMEDY triumph, seems to be inspired by Nicolas Cage at his most Cagey. With a ridiculous wig, preening mannerisms and an inconsistent fey British accent that comes and goes without warning, Brody is obviously opting for the hammy route in his silliest performance since groping himself as the anagrammed "Byron Deidra" in Dario Argento's GIALLO. Cusack is ludicrously miscast but fares better than in most of his recent Cusackalypse Now trifles. Sure, the idea of him playing a Roman centurion is amusing--and he's more or less admitted he did it as a lark--but it's hardly any worse than most of his other recent jobs, with the exception of his acclaimed performance as Brian Wilson in LOVE & MERCY.