五虎屠龍
Brothers Five (1970)


Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 07/04/2007

When you think about Lo Wei (if you think about him at all), you probably think of a director too easily distracted by horseracing commentaries on the radio, unnecessary cameo roles, or no-budget chop-socky dramas starring a young Jackie Chan. You probably do not think of lavish high-budget productions where the term “visual splendour” would not be out of place.

And yet you definitely get this in Brothers Five, a film that must have been one of his last efforts at Shaw Brothers before going to Golden Harvest. If this was his last, it would certainly look good on his résumé – at times, this looks as good as a King Hu film. I’m guessing the exteriors were filmed in Taiwan, as this has a very “open”, foresty look to it, with long rolling hills in the background. The interiors are also splendid, with some of the nicest interior sets made up to look like exteriors.

Unfortunately, the film itself is a bit of a drag. I’m not going to go into the plot here as I’ll probably end up wanting to commit suicide from continually explaining the same situations the heroes find themselves in before realising the bleeding obvious and teaming up together, but what it amounts to is a “united we stand, divided we fall” motif that gets bloody thin even before we reach the twenty minute mark. There is nothing at all that is not deeply predictable every step of the way. I know I must make allowances as the film is 37 years old, and this kind of story hadn’t been done to death at that point, but the fact is that so many films have done it better and you can’t help but feel bored to tears over the whole thing. Cheng Pei-Pei isn’t really the star of this, she just kind of glides in and out when the plot(?) needs moving forwards or if one of the brothers has done something particularly dumb and needs a nudge in the right direction.

On to the action sequences. Frankly, this was the only reason I kept watching. The fights are co-choreographed by Sammo Hung, and even this early in his career it’s evident he was streets ahead of his time. It’s scary to think that this film was a full fifteen years before he reached his prime as an action choreographer!

Sadly, however, there’s a problem with the fights, too – there are too many of them and they just go on so damned long! This could sound like heresy to a lot of fans, but I swear it’s true. I just lost interest and my eyes glazed over. At one point I was sure it was all finally coming to a close, only to look at the display on the DVD player to find that just over an hour had passed. The total running time’s about 100 minutes, so I was a bit gutted. I stuck it out to the bitter end, but sadly there is no great redemption at the end. In fact, I can’t really remember what happened at the end – and I’m pretty sure I was relatively sober.

In keeping with the theme of the film, I'm giving it a generous:

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 04/02/2007
Summary: Pretty good

A major cast, with a very young SAmmo Hung who i always didnt catch in a supporting role. Yueh Hua seems to take a lot of the screen time, and Cheng Pei-Pei doesnt seem to do much apart from a few fight scenes and looking cute.

The movie is about the flying dragon villa, where the caln has been taken over by a murderous but powerful Tin fung, Chend pei pei searches for the 5 sons of the former clan leader to lead to a ultimate showdown with Tin Fung, after they learn a secret kung fu style which will defeat him, but where are all the brothers? They are unaware of each others existence!!Where to find them?

The secret kung fu style is just plain weird, you'll see it for yourself!! Its just a whole lot of fighting, if thats what you want to see, here it is!!

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 03/20/2007
Summary: 8.5/10 - one of Lo Wei's best films

The master of Flying Dragon Villa is betrayed and killed by an usurper, and his five sons are sent off to separate destinations by his friend, each given a matching scar to identify them. Many years later the friend tells his daughter (Cheng Pei-Pei) the story and tasks her with finding the five sons and reuiniting them, so that they can take revenge. As luck would have it, all five happen to be on their way to Flying Dragon Villa with one grievance or another - but on their own they are no match for their enemies - but, luck being in plentiful supply it appears, Miss Yen has a manual for an invincible kung-fu technique that requires five martial artists to work in unison.

Brothers Five is clearly a premiere production from Shaw Brothers, with very high production values and a stellar cast. The plot is deeply implausible, but the characters are interesting and well written. The pacing flags in a couple of places, but for the most part it is a highly entertaining tale. The action from Hsu Er-Niu and Sammo Hung is exceptional for the time - consistently interesting and exciting (and there's a lot of it). Cheng Pei-Pei is of course wonderful! Definitely one of Lo Wei's best films.

Reviewer Score: 8