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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
TBC
Cast
Jet Li
Andy Lau
Xu Jinglei.
Directors
Peter Chan
Wai Man Yip.
Screenwriters
Tin Nam Chun
Junli Guo.
Running Time
126mins minutes

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The Warlords
Jet Li in powerful performance shocker!


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Plot
A heroic tale of three blood brothers fight against political upheaval and war. Based on the classic tale 'The Assassination of Ma' from the Qing Dynasty.


Review
The Warlords

In 1870, governor ma of Liangjiang was assassinated by a comrade who never explained why he committed the crime. The story was the basis of classic 1973 kung fu film Blood Brothers, and remains an unsolved historical mystery. Though martial arts master Jet Li takes the lead, this epic remake of Blood Brothers is light on fast footwork and instead plays as a grand-scale tragic war movie about a doomed, compromised visionary. Think Lawrence Of Arabia, with more mud than sand, or Patton: Lust For Glory with swords and arrows.

 

Jet Li breaks with his usual image in an opening scene which finds General Pang playing dead on a battlefield and running away in shame. After a one-night stand with a nurturing peasant woman (Xu Jinglei) which will haunt the rest of his life, he falls in with bandits — Takeshi Kaneshiro’s tagalong Jiang and Andy Lau’s commanding Zhao. Thereafter, the blood brotherhood becomes the motor of a complicated plot — you’ll need to Wiki the Taiping Rebellion to follow in detail. The blood brothers turn round the fortunes of the Imperial army in assaults on two rebel strongholds that offer contrasting set-pieces: a heroic victory in battle, with Pang fighting on despite a lance stuck through his shoulder, and a massacre of prisoners that effects the morally dubious conquest of a besieged city and cracks the bond between our heroes.

 

In his martial arts films, Li is usually a slim Buddha, effective in action but otherwise bland. Here, with a none-too-well-shaven head, he delivers a different, powerful performance as a complex antihero — an idealist who commits more and more atrocities in order to gain the power he hopes to use to fight large-scale injustices. Lau, of the Infernal Affairs films, matches him as the honest thief agonised by his friend’s ruthlessness — it’s a performance that gains in subtlety as the film progresses (Lau also has one terrific single combat scene with an honourable enemy commander). Given the way Chinese epics go, it’s not too much of a spoiler to say both stars get standout death scenes.


Extras

Warlords Warlords
Released: 02 March 2009
Deleted scenes and trailers are okay, but it’s the comprehensive, subtitled ‘making of’ that stands out.


Verdict
The guy story is so strong that conventional romantic interludes with the woman torn between two men could easily have been dropped.


Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Warlords
Empire Star Rating

RE: HEROIC BLOODSHED

it rocks !  ... More

Posted by Worldz at 17:21, 22 January 2009 | Report This Post


HEROIC BLOODSHED

Have to agree with Mr. Newman in this case. This is easily one of Jet Li's best performances. A real, three dimensional, slightly tortured man of action - who ends up doing many bad things for the greater good - or so it seems. Not being very familiar with this period of Chinese history, I was pleasantly surprised at how dark and complex the film was. In this ancient world, there are no easy choices. Life is harsh, government is duplicitous: blood oaths and loyalty are tested to the limit. This ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 16:42, 19 November 2008 | Report This Post


HEROIC BLOODSHED

Have to agree with Mr. Newman in this case. This is easily one of Jet Li's best performances. A real, three dimensional, slightly tortured man of action - who ends up doing many bad things for the greater good - or so it seems. Not being very familiar with this period of Chinese history, I was pleasantly surprised at how dark and complex the film was. In this ancient world, there are no easy choices. Life is harsh, government is duplicitous: blood oaths and loyalty are tested to the limit. This ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 16:42, 19 November 2008 | Report This Post


This heroic tale of three blood brothers and their struggle in the midst of war and political upheaval tells of the assassination of general Ma Xinyi during the 19th century Taiping Rebellion. Jet Li gets a chance to flex his acting muscles while still doing his martial arts thing, in his role as Imperial General Pang Qingyun. There are fantastic battle scenes throughout, but it seems to buckle under its own weight about half way , and comes of the rails abit. And it sort of recovers for a de... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 12:56, 17 November 2008 | Report This Post


Kim Newman's "spoiler" is only a problem if .....

you've never seen a Chinese epic before and/ or are backward. Or are part of the annoying trend on this site of getting all arsey with the reviewer. Wind in your indignant necks peeps, I don't think it takes a genius to see exactly where the flick is goin after 30 mins or so. The film is no less awesome because of this, caught it at the cinema then came home and bought an English-friendly import dvd online. Really can't recommend this film enough, provided you dig this type of thing of course. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Stebop at 15:10, 16 November 2008 | Report This Post


RE: not too much of a spoiler???

L: Liss Seriously, I've been waiting with bated breath for this movie for nearly a year - so when I clicked on this review I figured since I'd already read a lot about it, I'd probably seen all the review-type spoilers. I did NOT expect the review to tell me the end of the film - not even the HK Cinema award writeups did that, and they could reasonably have expected their audience to have seen it. Please, please edit, Kim Newman! Spare others my fate! sp; I agree, I hadn't even heard o... More

Posted by captainrentboy at 20:25, 09 November 2008 | Report This Post


not too much of a spoiler???

Seriously, I've been waiting with bated breath for this movie for nearly a year - so when I clicked on this review I figured since I'd already read a lot about it, I'd probably seen all the review-type spoilers. I did NOT expect the review to tell me the end of the film - not even the HK Cinema award writeups did that, and they could reasonably have expected their audience to have seen it. Please, please edit, Kim Newman! Spare others my fate! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Liss at 17:37, 07 November 2008 | Report This Post



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