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  Publicity Stills of "The Warlords"
Courtesy of Shaw

Genre: Action/Drama
Director: Peter Chan
Starring: Jet Li, Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Xu Jinglei
RunTime: 2 hrs 7 mins
Released By: Shaw & Innoform Media
Rating: NC16 (Battle Scenes)
Official Website: www.warlordsthemovie.com

Opening Day: 13 December 2007




The nineteenth century was an era of conflict: the Franco-Prussian War and the establishment of the German Empire in Europe; the Civil War in America; the Meiji Restoration in Japan; the Opium War in China followed by the Taiping Rebellion in Nanjing… all critical events that shaped the world today. At times of chaos, heroes are born yet innocence is forever lost…

It’s the mid-19th century, one of the darkest periods of Chinese history. The country is suffering under the rule of the corrupt Manchus who invaded China from the North and established the country’s last imperial dynasty, the Qing. Natural disasters are wreaking havoc in the countryside, and in the midst of this chaos, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, one of the strongest rebel groups ever to rise up in China, is overrunning the country and staging battles with the Qing army threatening the Dragon throne.

When Ma first met the rough-and-ready bandit, Cao Erhu (starring Andy Lau) and his trusted Lieutenant Zhang Wenxiang (starring Takeshi Kaneshiro), he had not an inkling that they will forever change his life. Cao, the dark and charismatic leader of a band of bandits, bonded with the dark Ma when this stranger saved his life. At Zhang’s urging, the three swear blood brotherhood. Ma had a dream – he wants to rid China of both the rebels and the corrupt Qing officials. Ma convinces Cao and Zhang on this noble quest and the trio soon engages in many dangerous battles and win. With the help of Cao and his men, Ma manages to squelch the rebels and rises through the ranks. Success has the power to corrupt – Ma soon became obsessed with power.

Cao and Zhang return to their native village, and Cao reunites for an evening with his beautiful wife, Lian (starring Xu Jinglei). But when she and Ma look at each other for the first time, the chemistry is overwhelming; and the seed of betrayal is sown. Ma must remove the one obstacle standing between him and the loyalty of the bandit-soldiers and the beautiful Lian.

Movie Review:

Having helmed Comrades: Almost a Love Story (1996) and Perhaps Love (2005), which incidentally are what we think the two greatest Asian films of all time, director-producer is back with his latest work, and it is a war drama? Where is the romantic love story? Where are the long-suffering male and female protagonists? Where are the melancholically-colored shots of lovers pinning for their dreams to come true?

Fans of the visionary filmmaker need not fear, because this movie successfully delivers the heart and soul of brotherhood amidst the adrenaline-driven storyline.

During the war-plagued 19th century in the late Qing dynasty China, three men will become blood brothers and swear to be true to each other, despite all the political upheavals and unrest around them. Circumstances evolve as years pass, and the brotherhood eventually culminates in tragedy.

Known for his well-produced films which are box office and critical successes, Chan’s signature is clear in the high production values of this 125-minute movie. The saga boasts of several big-scale war sequences which are exquisitely-choreographed and grittily-shot without losing pace. The thousands of soldiers, horses, bows and arrows will leave you in awe, thinking that the movie is executed as well as, if not better, than the many Hollywood productions you have seen before. Couple that with some breathtaking cinematography, tight editing and dramatic music score by a Pan-Asian production team: You’d be leaving the theatre with nothing but praise for the movie.

The leading men’s charisma is also something that you won’t miss. Playing the eldest brother is action star Jet Li (Rogue Assassin, Fearless) who portrays the fallen hero with the right amount of angst and anguish. Complemented by action coordinator Ching Siu-Tung’s (Curse of the Golden Flower, House of Flying Daggers) choreography, Li scores in this role. Heavenly king Andy Lau (Protégé, Battle of Wits) plays a tragic hero torn between different factions. The many emotional scenes definitely make this one of the best performances in Lau’s career. The charming Takeshi Kaneshiro (Perhaps Love , Turn Left Turn Right) may look somewhat too contemporary as the youngest brother, but his increasingly affective acting more than makes up for that. Rounding up the well-represented Asian cast is the talented Xu Jinglei (Confession of Pain), who plays the supporting role conflicted wife without being too overlooked.

The very emotionally-charged plot will mean that it will take a capable director to make the movie work. And Chan has competently told the story to move the most cold-hearted audience. There will be at least two scenes where you may reach out for your hankie and reflect on the relevance on human nature some 150 years later in present day.

Such is the skill of a good storyteller like Chan: It doesn’t matter when the tale is set in; a fine filmmaker will have the power to affect you emotionally amidst all the wham-bham action of things.

Movie Rating:

(An excellently-produced and directed action drama that has all the heart and soul )

Review by
John Li


. Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon (2008)

. An Empress And The Warriors (2008)

. The Curse of the Golden Flowers (2006)

. A Battle of Wits (2006)

. The Promise (2005)

. Seven Swords (2005)

. The Myth (2005)

. House of Flying Daggers (2004)





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