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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
A Remake of Chang Cheh's Classic Is a Rousing Epic!June 15 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
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] NOTE: The U.S. release (region 1) of "The Warlords" has lost more than 15 minutes of original footage when compared to the Hong Kong release. It loses a lot of its emotions and dramatic impact. If you have multi-region capability, get the uncut Asian release.
47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding in every respectMay 22 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
Jet Li as a villain is quite a remarkable piece of casting, and everyone really holds their own in this action epic set in 1860s China. The title in English is Warlords but in Chinese it was Blood Brothers, and features three men who are doing their best to survive in a wartorn land. Jet Li, a great general in the Imperial army, is betrayed and the only man in his army to survive. His resurrection from the dead is both fascinating and appalling to watch as his desire for power obliterates all before him. Andy Lau gives the performance of a lifetime as the head of a band of brigands, who first follows Jet Li but later becomes disaffected by what he sees and tries to turn back from the collision course the ambitious general has set them all on. Takeshi Kaneshiro as the youngest of the three strong male leads is remarkable in terms of both his battle prowess and how loyal he is to both men, until he is forced to choose sides. Complicating matters still further is the fact that Li's character unintentionally fell in love with a woman on the road, who turns out to be the wife of Lau's character. The inevitable ending is anything but as each man meets his fate. The action and battle sequences, music, costume, and above all, the depiction of warfare at the time, including trench warfare, makes this an Asian All Quiet on the Western Front, where there is no glory for anyone, only more bloodshed for the sake of ruthless territorial ambitions. I have watched it several times now, with a variety of friends, and everyone LOVED it, even as they were completely shocked by it. If you like action films, there is plenty to recommend Warlords, but the sheer depth of this epic is remarkable. This is a GREAT film in the true sense of the word.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Great movie and no reason to cut it for the USDec 22 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
Like Red Cliff, The Warlords is a martial arts movie in a different sense of the word. While there are a couple scenes with Jet Li dishing out some wushu, the bulk of the action consists of large scale battles, sieges, and raids.
That said, there is definitely a rock hard moral core at the heart of this movie that fits with what I like about more typical martial arts movies: the sense of honor and the importance of male bonding over personal gain. What gives this movie its heart is that the brotherhood created by the characters played by the three male leads spins apart and leads to tragic consequences.
A little background on the Taiping rebellion, even a blurb from Wikipedia or the like, would be a good thing to read as the movie clearly assumes we know a bit about it. By and large though, this information would make the film richer but not knowing it does not impair your ability to follow the story. The position of each male protagonist is a little vague at the start of the film, but this again is a minor issue.
The battle scenes in this movie are astounding. Some really shocking shots with limbs being severed, etc. It's graphic, but not gratuitous. Despite all the effects and costumes and such, the film never loses its emotional core. I was surprised how much I came to care about the brotherhood of these three men in under two hours. That said, there were a few scenes that did drag a little, and this would be another slight flaw with the movie.
Of course, the length of the movie brings me to the major problem with the US release. From what I understand, 15 minutes has been cut from this film for the US release. why? Why? WHY??? Other reviews suggest the cut footage - as was the case in the US version of Fearless - eliminate scenes that enhance the emotional power of the story. In the case of Fearless, I luckily obtained and watched the full director's cut of the international release so I was able to see the intended version of the movie. However, no such option is available for us Yankees with The Warlords, and I have no doubt that the film suffers from the missing footage.
I find it increasingly irritating that I have to be careful to purchase or am simply unable to purchase the unedited version of so many films from overseas. DVDs and blu-rays can store a lot of information on them. There is not reason not to release a movie with the original cut as well as the 'for dopey Americans' cut. Let the viewer decide if it's going to kill them to spend 15 more minutes with the film!
Anyway, while the pacing is a little slow at times and some of the details of the story are sketchy given the lack of historical background and the missing footage (most likely), I enjoyed watching The Warlords, though I wish I had the real movie - not a cut version - for my DVD collection. I can't give the DVD release for the film more than 3 stars due to this poor packaging decision.
89 of 106 people found the following review helpful
Gonna get the Megastar import version instead.June 30 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
Great film. Great actors. Great directing. Ho-Sun Chan is in top form here. But, once again, just like with "Iron Monkey" and "Suriyothai" we get these "American" cut versions. WHICH SUCKS!!! I am a film school student and have studied films for over 20 years and I despise it when a foreign film is cut "supposedly" to our western liking. Who asked Magnolia to cut 13-14 minutes of the film anyway? Surely fans of foreign films did not ask for this. Read the dvdbeaver comparison to find out what is missing in the "American" cut. Magnolia, you dropped the ball on this one. I bought your versions of "Haeundae" (interestingly renamed "Tidal Wave". Haeundae does not mean Tidal Wave. It is the town in South Korea where the tsunami hits), "Chocolate", "Ong Bak 2", "Let The Right One In" (except for the subtitle complaints) and others and I am pleased with them. But, remember this, true film fans want the "director's vision" of a film, not the version that you "think we would want"!!! I am importing the Region A Megastar version with no "cuts" to the film. MAGNOLIA PLEASE DO NOT MAKE "CUTS" TO THE SOUTH KOREAN FILM "MOTHER" THAT YOU ARE RELEASING ON BLU-RAY JULY 20TH. I saw "Mother" and it is amazing just the way it is. No need to cut ANYTHING from that film. Stay true to your fans and supporters and we will always buy your releases.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A Chinese war epic well worth seeingMarch 14 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
General Pang Qing Yun is the sole survivor of his entire battalion. The Ching army was taken out against Taiping rebels in Hechuan. A woman named Lian spends the night with Pang and leaves before he wakes the next morning. Jiang Wuyang, one of the bandits that rides into the town Pang currently finds himself in, is impressed with Pang's fighting skills and introduces Pang to Zhao Er Hu. Jiang and Er Hu take Pang to their village where Pang is reunited with Lian who just so happens to be Er Hu's wife. The bandits from the village overthrow a passing food convoy and that is thought to be a resolution to their current desperation until the imperial army invades and usurps the food that they stole. Pang, Er Hu, and Jiang take a blood oath to become blood brothers before joining Lord Chen's army. With the odds against them, their 800 soldiers get the upper hand on Shu City's 5,000 as plans are put into motion to overthrow Suzhou and Nanjing, the capital. The brothers soon begin to fall apart on their rise to the top. Er Hu tends to be loyal with his word and his brothers no matter what as Pang will sacrifice anyone and even make deals with his enemies just to win while Jiang is stuck in the middle.
This movie is phenomenal. The battle sequences are stunning, the cinematography is brilliant, and the acting is top notch. The Warlords took everything that was fantastic about Mongol and made it just a little bit better. Jet Li deserves a mention. After seeing Unleashed and Fearless, it was nice to see him actually show his acting chops again. The desire to see him at that acting capacity was high, so it was quite a treat to see him at that caliber once again. After The Forbidden Kingdom and his rather stale performance in that, it's become a bit difficult what to expect from him other than him displaying how talented he is at martial arts. Fortunately, he did a great job in this as he showed just about every emotion in this film at some time or another. His fight scenes were also incredible, but that is kind of a given. Andy Lau also deserves a nod. His character is just so passionate about being honorable and loyal that when things go wrong, his reaction is just explosive. He has some really powerful scenes where he's fighting for what he thinks is right. There's a scene where a play is mocking him and his brothers while he's eating dinner. He begins to laugh, which leads to him crying uncontrollably, and then he begins laughing again. He just managed to pull it off flawlessly and it was incredibly impressive.
The battle scenes didn't pull any punches either. Blood flies across the screen as limbs roll on the ground. It's truly fantastic. They are the highlight of the film as the first half seems to not pull away from the battlefield. The film is also extremely colorful. Every scene is stunningly vibrant. There are so many memorable scenes from the film and half of that is due to how they were shot. There's a scene where Er Hu runs into a coliseum where there are just hundreds of dead bodies lying on the ground and the camera does a 360 degree motion around him capturing his emotions and the devastation that lies around him. It's amazing.
The Warlords is one of the best Chinese war epics I've ever seen. Not that I've seen too many of them, but even in comparison to feudal Japan films, it's one of the best. If you were a fan of films like Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Kahn, The Last Samurai, or Seven Samurai, then this comes highly recommended. It's the type of film that shouldn't be missed by anyone.