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Chinese Epic with Jet Li and Andy Lau

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Jet Li's Best Performance; Remake of the Classic "Blood Brothers"

  • Jan 25, 2009
Rating:
+4



THE WARLORDS (2007) is an ambitious film directed by Peter Chan, one of Hong Kong's known filmmakers. This film has a very impressive cast in Jet Li (Fearless), Andy Lau (Infernal Affairs) and Takeshi Kaneshiro (Returner). This period epic is loosely based on Chang Cheh's classic; BLOOD BROTHERS. I've seen a lot of Chinese epics and thankfully "The Warlords" is not a part of the colorful, overindulgent film geared towards U.S. audiences. Truly, this film is darker and grittier than most Chinese epics, but still has massive commercial appeal and will no doubt be popular to international audiences.

The Taiping Rebellion has plunged the country in chaos. General Quing-yun Pang (Jet Li) is the lone survivor of a massive battle between the Christian Taiping and the Qing dynasty under command. That evening, he finds comfort in the arms of comely Lian (Xu Jinglei) but she disappears the following day. Pang encounters a group of bandits led by Er-hu Zhao (Andy Lau) and Jiang (Kaneshiro) who are having difficulty in survival. As fate would have it, the three takes a blood oath to join the Qing army to quell the rebellion.





The Taiping rebellion is among the bloodiest civil war ever recorded in history. The body count rivals the ones during World War II. The Taiping rebellion has a lot to do with religion and cultural ideology, and those powerful issues have been downplayed in favor of the theme of brotherhood, love and war. The film fails to take advantage of its historical context. Quite disappointing really, apparently, the producers presume that the usual theme of brotherhood and loyalty are more universal and more appealing to international audiences. I looked up the details of the Taiping rebellion, and I have to say, even though "The Warlords" is in no means a bad film, it's full potential hasn't been achieved. Rather, the rebellion is only used as a backdrop and not really the film's main premise.

As for the battle scenes, it may well be the bloodiest I've seen so far in Hong Kong cinema. Limbs are severed and there are a few gruesome beheadings. The sequences still have the martial arts influence, but no hints of wires are shown. U.S. audiences may need hints of Chinese history to be able to fully grasp the proceedings, there's a lot of commentary to China's tumultuous past and there is some effective human drama in the brothers' contrasting ideas regarding war and righteousness. Pang is a realist while Er-hu is an idealist, I'm pretty certain you have an idea how two opposing ideologies cannot coexist. Sadly, the missing cultural impact of the war minimizes the film's depth, making the horrors of war less involving.





Jet Li gives the performance of his career since "Fearless". The man can indeed act, and now I understand why he wants to leave the shadow of Wu Shu. There is quite a lot of "manly" tear-jerking moments, and the existing love triangle between Pang, Er-hu and Lian seems to be minor plot devices in an attempt to relate to its audiences. The film is successful as a costume epic, and definitely has a lot of ambition. The style feels a little bit like a Hollywood production; expensive, huge and indeed loud. There are some emotional complexities inherent in its characters and conflicts but it becomes a little too predictable. The film is indeed large but somewhat hampered by its commercialism. Big name Asian stars, expensive production values (I heard that it surpassed "Curse of the Golden Flower" in dollar expense), drama and a China-friendly aversion to sensitive themes.

Now, this doesn't mean that "The Warlords" is a bad film, it is actually a VERY good one. The elaborate costumes, decent battle sequences, awesome set designs and the excellent performance by my boy; Jet Li does make the film a real note-worthy experience. It is just both a success and a victim of its own commercialism. For the most part, Peter Chan and company knew what they wanted to do with this film; a film that can please almost everyone (except maybe those who love happy endings) and has mass mainstream appeal for both Chinese and international audiences. The film's historical trappings feel more like a setting rather than a sense of history. Still, a lot of viewers will not be disappointed, the film is not subtle in execution, the melodramatic battlefields and the great performances by its actors are sure to please many. It may be a bit hollow in spirit but definitely solid and safe in the power it exudes.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! [4 stars]

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October 29, 2010
This was a really good one WP
 
November 03, 2009
Oh, what can I say, I'm a big fan of Takeshi, Jet Li & Andy Lau ;-)
January 30, 2010
I knew it!
 
January 31, 2009
Don't tell me you're going to knuckle under and put up a real photo, Woop!?
 
January 29, 2009
Honestly, Karen, I thought that aside from the superb performances of Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li, COTGF was just ok. I'm not sure, but something about it felt a little too superficial. I guess a lot of it is probably because I see a lot of Chinese epics...oh, well...
 
January 29, 2009
Too bad they didn't make the film they could have made. I suppose I'll put it on my list, although watching CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER again sounds like a better idea.
 
January 27, 2009
Count, "Cops vs. Thugs" is one of the breakout hits by director Kinji Fukasaku who also directed "Battle Royale". It is quite good, and goes into the insides of the Yakuza. but I think the DVD release may not be the best.
 
January 26, 2009
As you're the authority on Asian cinema, I'll assume you've seen the film Cops vs. Thugs. What did you think? Independent foreign film distributor Kino International has it on sale for $6.99 and I'm kind of tempted to get it, but I thought I'd see what an Asian cinemaphile like yourself thought of it first.
 
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More The Warlords reviews
Quick Tip by . June 11, 2010
Awesome book and history, Good read.
Quick Tip by . March 16, 2010
posted in ASIANatomy
The spectacular 2008 Chinese Epic is about to be released in U.S. theaters April 2.
Quick Tip by . March 15, 2010
posted in Reel Overseas
Very gritty and nice characterization, one of the best historical epic from China/Hong Kong.
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Wiki

The Warlords, previously known as The Blood Brothers (simplified Chinese投名状traditional Chinese投名狀pinyin: tóu míng zhuàng), is a 2007 award-winning Chinese/Hong Kong epic war film directed by Peter Chan and starring Jet LiAndy LauTakeshi Kaneshiro and Xu Jinglei. The film was released on December 13, 2007 simultaneously in most of Asia, except Japan.The film is set in the 1860s, during theTaiping Rebellion in the late Qing Dynasty in China and centers on the sworn brotherhood of three men.

Plot:

The film is set in the 1860s, during the Taiping Rebellion in the late Qing Dynasty in China. The story, based on an unresolved crime in 1870, tells of three sworn brothers (played by Jet LiAndy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro) who are forced to turn against one another due to the harsh realities of war and political intrigue.

The story begins with a vicious battle, after which Qing-Yun (Jet Li), a Qing Army General, is the only survivor of his entire army. In his aimless wanderings he encounters a girl named Lian Sheng [莲生] (Xu Jinglei), who nurses him back to health. Once he regains his strength, Qing-Yun soon meets Wu-Yang (Takeshi Kaneshiro), and later Er-Hu (Andy Lau); leaders of a bandit army that regularly steals food to survive — his participation in a successful raid on a rebel ...

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