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  Publicity Stills of "Blood Brothers
(Courtesy from GV)

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
Rating: NC-16

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.

Movie Review:

Directed 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’.

Movie Rating:

(A somewhat impressive effort but perhaps slightly old school for the audiences of today)

Review by Darren Sim


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