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  Publicity Stills of "Brothers"
(Courtesy from GV)

In Mandarin with English and Chinese subtitles
Director: Derek Chiu
Cast: Miu Kiu Wai, Eason Chan, Andy Lau, Wong Yat Wah, Crystal Huang, Ken Tong Chun Yip, Lam Ka Tung, Wang Zhi Wen, Lin Chun
RunTime: 1 hr 45 mins
Released By: GV & Mediacorp Raintree Pictures
Rating: PG
Official Website: www.brothers2007.com

Opening Day: 18 October 2007


In fighting against the triad illegal activities, police officer Foon (Andy Lau) witnesses numerous brothers turn against one another due to mistrust and suspicion. The old value of ‘righteousness and brotherhood’ in the gangland has long been replaced by profit and money. Separated since a young age at their father’s (Wang Zhi-Wen) arrangement, Yiu (Michael Miu) and Shun (Eason Chan) grew up in different places. Years later, Yiu succeeds his father to become the triad boss. His desire to legitimize the illegal dealings within the gang is met with opposition from Kui (Tong Chun-yip) who carries on with the illegal activities secretly. The crisis brings the two brothers back together again. However, a series of setups arranged by Yiu causes Shun to flee to Thailand, accompanied by confidantes Ching (Crystal Huang) and Ghostie (Wong Yat-wah). As Shun is caught between life and death, the trust between the brothers is put to a serious test. When Shun finally realizes the true intention of his brother, things are already beyond repair.

Movie Review:

If I recall correctly, this project was originally conceived as a reunion project for a group of television actors who were termed the Five Tigers back in the 80s, where you had Andy Lau, Miu Kiu Wai, Felix Wong Yat Wah, Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Ken Tong being household names from popular drama serials, having been given leading man, or memorable villain roles. As far as I can remember, all had a share of the spoils in Louis Cha novels turned television series, and were no doubt touted by the television station in being a force to be reckoned with. But as we know, in the cinematic world, only two went on to make an impact, with Tony Leung being the arthouse favourite possessing arguably the best acting chops amongst them, and Andy Lau probably being the most industrious.

And how more apt to make a comeback, than to have everyone unite for a defining genre in Hong Kong Cinema - the triad movie? However, the reunion was not to be given the absence of Tony Leung, and Eason Chan comes gatecrashing through the party. One wonders how the dynamics of Brothers would change if Leung had been on board. Indeed with the amount of talent at his disposal, director Derek Chiu has no reason for the movie to fail. But what emerged as a result, was a rather flat storyline in desperate need for some uplifting moments, having fallen to cliched plot development. And worse, the characters easily became caricatures.

Set in the days when Hong Kong was still a British colony, the Tam Underworld Family runs its ship like a well oiled, professional corporation with a single big no-no, and that is it doesn't partake in the drug trade. But dividends paid out to coalition members are always deemed paltry, and renegades looking for alternate revenue streams will always look to supplement their income. In a good superstitious moment, it's deemed that the two brothers Yiu (Miu Kiu Wai) and Shun (Eason Chan) must always be separated lest there be trouble with a capital T. Hence the story goes in that direction until circumstances force Shun to return to Hong Kong.

That alone took almost half an hour to establish, and throughout the movie, there's always this lack of urgency, be it from the triads, or from cursory representatives of the police, led by Inspector Lau (Andy Lau, a nod in the direction of 80s movies where character names take on the real names of the actors playing them). While the technical aspects of Brothers were exemplary, much of the movie is still left to be desired, and you can't help but feel that everything's pretty pedestrian. There were too many singular scenes which work well on its own, but the flow from one to the other doesn't feel very natural, and they don't provide much depth to either the storyline or to the development of characters.

The focus of the movie is clearly on the dynamics between the two Tam brothers, and how Trust never comes easy for the man at the top of the hierarchy. The story has adequate interesting moments which make you ponder over the intentions of the characters, especially of Yiu when he makes questionable decisions, but like everyone else, you just got to be patient to find out why. What I thought was a let down, were the action scenes, which looked rather amateurish, and probably contains one of the most unrealistic vehicular chase sequences ever. The set action pieces are not edge-of-your-seat kind, and most of the time, it looks as if everyone's going through rehearsed motions, which is a pity as such triad movies usually contain some adrenaline flowing shoot-em-ups at the very least.

And what of the Tigers? Miu Kiu Wai always had this rogueish charm to him, being the dai-lo (Big Guy) that commands respect. Felix Wong, who would probably waltz into a heroic role back in his heydays, plays an enforcer type, a man of few words, and sworn brother of the Tams. Andy Lau is well, Andy Lau, as a typical cop desperately trying to gain a foothold in cracking the Tam crime organization, while Ken Tong goes back to filling the villainous shoes, looking menacing for the most parts. And new kid on the block here Eason handles his character with much rashness befitting a newbie trying to break into and seeking acceptance from an established group.

Brothers had potential written all over it, but alas felt a little too tired and cliched, with the bad outnumbering the good, and drops what could have been a memorable movie, down a few notches.

Movie Rating:

(Tired triad movie severely lacking in soul and fresh ideas, compensated only by the power of its star ensemble)

Review by Stefan Shih

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