Follow us on

Featured DVD Review: Jade Warrior

April 19th, 2010

Jade Warrior - Buy from Amazon

Jade Warrior is a Finnish / Chinese co-production. There's something you don't see every day. It's not the first European martial arts movie I've reviewed. In 2007 I reviewed a German martial arts movie called The Challenge. This movie costed a lot more to make, but it still is a very low budget affair compared to Hollywood productions. In fact, it's low budget compared to most Chinese movies that make their way here. Taking that into account, how well does the movie live up to other films in the genre?

Set in modern day Finland and simultaneously 4000 years ago in ancient China, the film tells two parallel stories based in part on the Finnish traditional epic poems compiled in the Kalevala and in part on the Wuxia style of Chinese fiction. We are told about a legend involving an artifact that can bring about true happiness, the sampo, and of a warrior, Sintai, destined to destroy a demon and therefore claim his place in Nirvana. However, instead of destroying the demon, the warrior merely trapped it so that he would be reborn again and be with his true love.

In modern Finland we meet Kai, a blacksmith of suspect skill who was recently dumped by his girlfriend, Ronja. In order to escape the memories of their relationship, she takes some of the possessions he left with her to an antiques dealer. Included in these items is a container full of ashes that Kai used in his work as a blacksmith. Apparently the carbon from these ashes helped prevent the iron he was working with from rusting. However, he made the ashes from his hair and nail clippings. Weird. When the ashes come in contact with an artifact recently unearthed in Finland (an artifact with Chinese writing on it), there is a strange reaction. The antiques dealer, Berg, then brings it to Kai to see if he can open it. When Kai does, Berg becomes possessed by the spirit of Sintai's trainer. The trainer has come to help Kai get back into the fighting shape he will need to be in, in order to defeat the demon. But first, he must create the sampo.

Meanwhile, throughout the telling of that story, we flashback to ancient China where we learn more of Sintai and the reason he didn't fulfill his fate.

I have to say... this movie... starts out... slowly. It never really picks up steam and kicks into high gear, but as we learn more and more of the backstory, it does get more interesting. It's so slow at the beginning that once the plot started going and we started learning about the past, I went back to the beginning of the movie to see if I had missed something important. Nope. It's just slow in the beginning. Fortunately, the story of reincarnation and millennia old cross-cultural prophecies is unique enough to draw you in. Also, the movie is beautifully shot, which helps, and the martial arts fights tend to be on the artistic side of the spectrum, full of slo-mo shots and swirling leafs. (Although in the end battle, the two combatants use blacksmith hammers, which is not typical weapon used in martial arts fights, nor are they very artistic weapons. That said, the choreography is still stylish.

The only extra on the DVD is a nine-and-a-half minute "making of" featurette that focuses on the special effects in the movie. There are a lot of effects shots in the movie, especially considering its budget was only 2.5 million Euros (about $3.5 million American).

The Verdict

If you have the patience to get through the beginning, Jade Warrior offers something new to the martial arts genre with an interesting story based on the legends of two cultures that one would think have little in common. (There was an archeological discovery that seemed to have linked these two stories, but that connection might be a tad tenuous.) It is definitely worth checking out, and while the DVD isn't exactly loaded, the lone extra it does have is worth checking out. Call it a solid rental, leaning toward a purchase.

- Submitted by:

Filed under: Video Review, Jade Warrior