November 26, 2014

The Blade of the Rose (2004)

Released in English language markets as The Twins Effect 2, Blade of the Rose seems an odd sequel in that - cast aside - it has no relation to the original film whatsoever. The original was produced to cash in on the popularity of singers Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung, who performed as "The Twins". The Twins Effect was a fairly mediocre sort of action comedy involving vampires. The Blade of the Rose is instead a fairly mediocre sort of action comedy involving the creaky old cliché of an female empire where men are enslaved.

It’s a messy film. For the most part it acts like a sort of gregarious high school production – everyone has this sort of amiable “let’s put on the show ourselves” vibe to them. It feels less like a Hong Kong fantasy film so much as a student film made by fans of Hong Kong fantasy. Amateurish to be certain, but also very high on charm and enthusiasm. It’s deliberately silly and over-the-top, as Hong Kong comedies are often wont to be. The costumes and sets are colourful enough to potentially induce seizures.
Blade of the Rose is a mess, but it’s a likeable mess. A lot of it actually reminded me of the more ridiculous episodes of Hercules: The Legendary Journey and Xena: Warrior Princess. Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung are not exceptionally gifted actresses, but they are easy on the eye and positively ooze charisma. Donnie Yen broods in that very Donnie Yen kind of a way. Jaycee Chan, son of the legendary Jackie Chan, makes his acting debut here. It’s not a tremendously promising start for him to be honest, but later films (such as Invisible Target and particularly Mulan) show him getting better as he goes.

The film also boasts, somewhat out of the blue, the first-ever on-screen martial arts fight between Donnie Yen and Jackie Chan. The fight is Chan’s only appearance in the entire movie, so one assumes he either did it to finally spar with Yen or as a favour to his son. Possibly both. It's a fairly enjoyable fight, however, and for long-term fans of Hong Kong cinema it’s probably the highlight.

Blade of the Rose is directed by Patrick Leung and Corey Yuen. They bring with them some impressive resumes – Leung worked as assistant director to John Woo on Hardboiled and The Killer, while Yuen directed the likes of The Transporter, Fong Sai Yuk and Dragons Forever (with Sammo Hung). Maybe the budget wasn’t sufficient, or time was short during the shoot, but it simply doesn’t feel like either director is bringing their A-game.

You can’t rave about Blade of the Rose - in fact, I’m completely sure you can actively recommend it to people. In all fairness, it is quite fun, and harmless, and sometimes even enjoyably silly.

This review was originally published on Eiga: Asian Cinema.

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