The Warlords (2007)
Reviewed by: mrblue on 2008-03-06
A loose remake of Chang Cheh's 1973 classic Blood Brothers, The Warlords takes place during the Taiping Rebellion of the 1860's, a bloody conflict that took more Chinese lives than World War II. The story centers on Ma (Jet Li), a general for the ruling Qing. After a harrowing battle which sees the decimation of his troops, Ma decides to defect and eventually links up with a group of bandits led by Cao (Andy Lau) and his right hand man, Zhang (Takeshi Kaneshiro).

Seeing the fury of Cao's men during a raid gives Ma the idea to convince them to join the army. Ostensibly, this is so Ma can regain favor with the emperor, but he also has another motive: love for Cao's wife, Mi (Xu Jing-Lei). Ma, Cao, and Zhang lead their troops to victory early on, but during an extended siege of a city critical to the rebellion, their loyalties are put to the test.

There seems to be a bit of a resurgence in the Chinese "epic" picture over the past couple of years, with films such as Curse of the Golden Flower, The Banquet, and Battle of Wits. The Warlords certainly fits into that mold, with big stars, huge battle scenes, and lots of drama. There's no denying that this is a striking picture to look at, and the action sequences (helmed by Ching Siu-Tung) are very solid.

But somehow things feel a little hollow. Even with Jet Li delivering what is the finest dramatic work of his career, there seems to be very little real emotion going on here. Perhaps it's a matter of too many cooks spoiling the broth. With two directors, four cinematographers, four composers, and a whopping eight screenwriters, it should probably come as no surprise that not everything seems to mesh together.

Even with that playing into factor, The Warlords still remains a good film. At the very least, it was nice to see Jet Li actually participating in a movie that not only uses his martial arts skills (though this by no means a kung fu movie) but his acting chops as well, unlike some of his recent work in western productions like War that just have him as some generic Chinese guy who can kick ass.

[review from]
Reviewer Score: 7