In Mandarin with English and Chinese subtitles
Director: Alexi Tan
Cast: Daniel Wu, Shu Qi, Liu Ye, Zhang Zhen
Runtime: 1 hr 35 mins
Released By: GV and Innoform Media
Opening Day: 23 August 2007
Blood Brothers is the story of three close friends, Fung,
Kang, and his little brother Hu. They begin the story as poor
fishermen from Zhujiajiao, a small village on the outskirts
of Shanghai. They are young and trapped by unfortunate circumstances;
they decide to move to Shanghai in search of whatever opportunities
the big city may have in store for them. As the three brothers
rise to power, Fung has to make a choice between this life
of crime and unrequited love, or a return to the man he once
was. Hu has been struggling with his own weakness and reconcile
himself to the dangers of his new life in Shanghai while Kang,
blinded by a lust for power, pursues his own ambitions at
any cost. By the end, lives will be lost, though redemption
may still be within reach.
by newcomer Alexi Tan, Blood Brothers is a jazzed-up stunning
neo-classic tribute to Shanghai gangland films of old. Nonetheless,
with its predictability of plot elements and near plastic
acting, the picture becomes more comic than tragic and modern
audiences may be slightly less than impressed.
It is a typical 1930s gangster flick, and with John Woo as
one of its producers, is reminiscent of his 1990 Vietnam War
classic Bullet in the Head. So reminiscent that it almost
looks like a remake albeit in a different time and locale.
Although the new improvements are appreciated, it is still
felt that this was an exercise in futility.
The movie opens with some simple but lovely cinematographic
shots of Zhujiajiao – a small, quaint village on the
outskirts of Shanghai. This and the other sets of the film
are perhaps its strongest points. The streets of old Shanghai,
the Paradise Club and even the nunnery where the fugitives
hide are all nothing less than breathtaking. I was particularly
taken by the opening scenes of old Shanghai, with electric
trams and rickshaws, complete with denizens decked out in
meticulously prepared period costume. You rarely get this
kind of attention to detail and authenticity anymore. However,
there seems to be an overabundance of poorly choreographed
dance numbers in the Paradise Club. These were deplorable
as they were boring.
It is also most unfortunate that with a star ensemble cast
such as this, that the acting mostly comes across as plastic.
Culprits include Shu Qi and an unenthusiastic Daniel Wu. Even
thought the scenes of lovers were surprisingly intimate and
well executed, it was nonetheless tiring with its aria-esque
moments that made the movie feel longer than its 95 minutes.
One exception is Liu Ye’s Kang. Here he is absolutely
convincing and versatile as the older brother, ambitious and
positive in the beginning, later corrupt and blinded by power
lust and finally, seeking redemption - the power of his eyes!
The gun battle was cool, brutal and slick with obvious heavy
John Woo input. But by this final act, with predictability
being met at every turn, the audience was just hoping that
it would be over. Still, the script procrastinated and we
all cheered when Mark finally finished off Kang, with ‘this
is my fate’.
(A somewhat impressive effort but perhaps slightly old school
for the audiences of today)
Review by Darren Sim