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投名狀 (2007)
The Warlords

Reviewed by: evirei
Date: 11/14/2011

One of the best martial art movies that manage to gather 3 mega-stars that makes the movie sparkle. Peter Chan have covered a really wide angle of details in this movie. From the humble beginning to the rise of a strong army, to brotherhood bonds and of course... the main reason for the downfall of a kingdom, woman.

The cinematography was superb while the battles are just as brutal and bloody as it needs to be. Of course what facinates me is how Peter Chan manages to play with my emotions, in terms of the process needed to make crucial decisions during war and how some decisions are in-human that might not be acceptable by all parties and yet, one can't say the decision is a wrong one... it's at the end of the day, just a different perspective and when we are all at a different level of position.

Excellent casting, screenplay and storytelling that will definately leave an after taste.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 08/01/2010

As massive as the scope of "The Warlords" is, this spare-no-expense remake of the Shaw Brothers classic "The Blood Brothers" (1973), shows its teeth often enough without hardly ever baring it's heart; puzzling for a film helmed by Peter Chan Hoh-san who made a name for himself in Hong Kong during the '90s directing audience affecting romance pictures.

Thirty-four years after "The Blood Brothers" debuted eight new writers and two directors (Raymond Yip sans credit) keep the basics of the original's plot intact with some minor storytelling tweaks in addition to the jettison of martial arts which ironically weren't exactly the lynchpin to the original Chang Cheh helmed historical drama and coincide with lead actor Jet Li's recent public abstention from the genre.

Not unlike its origins at its core "The Warlords" is a romantic drama about an oath between bandits tested by love and war but here director Peter Chan seems occasionally more preoccupied with capturing Ching Siu-tung's choreographed warfare than he does exploring the possibilities and limitations of human nature.

As impressive as the film's aesthetic is, as well articulated as its budget may be, and as refreshing as it might be for some to see Jet Li out perform everyone around him in his first non-martial arts role, "The Warlords" because of its lazy eye only manages to be a likeable remake of the far superior Shaw Brothers original that too often leaves its heart beating faintly on the battlefield.

If Chan decides to return to the epic warring states genre -- the preeminent choice of Chinese filmmakers in the new millennium -- we can only hope "The Warlords" was just a fun dress rehearsal.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: dalvin
Date: 08/20/2008
Summary: Jet Li's best work

The Warlords is the story of three men Pang (Jet Li), Jiang (Takeshi Kaneshiro), and Er-Hu (Andy Lau) who form a bond to be blood brothers. Along the way the bond formed is challenged by Pang and his rise to power.

The movie starts a bit far fetched with Jiang trying to take Pangs shoes, failing and proclaiming to him 'your kung fu is great, you should meet my big brother'. After that the movie takes off towards an enjoyable two hours.

This movie is indeed epic, although the characters are never developed enough to make this a truly great movie, they are portrayed well enough to make this a very good movie. Er Hu is my favorite, he is not the smartest man but he is loyal to his word and always tries to make everyone happy. Jiang is, in my opinion, a fool who will blindly follow whoever is in charge because they must be right.

Depending upon how you take him, you may see Pang as either cunning or coniving. I see him as coniving, his every action is done seemingly to benifit those around him for his best interest. No doubt, Jet is marvelous in this movie and though he won't win any oscars, this is his best acting job, yet. I look forward to seeing what he'll do next, acting wise. He has a lot of potential and has come a long way.

The action in this movie takes a back seat to the plot, but the action scenes are wonderfully shot and provide a well placed break. The battles are fast paced, violent and there is a lot of blood being shed-- see one mans sacrifice by throwing himself onto a cannon.

This is a truly enjoyable movie, but at times does feel like there is something missing. But, I do recommend this

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: PAUL MARTINEZ
Date: 03/08/2008
Summary: I see it differently

Well after reading the above reviews I re-watched this epic again to be sure we were discussing the same film. The Warlords is a masterpiece re-telling (not remake) of the Shaw's epic, Blood Brothers.

First thing I differ about is the take on Jet Li's character. I saw no "cowardice" from him. He was a ruthless general who made tough & not always friendly choices. But as he pointed out, this is war. His loyalty lied with his troops. I felt his every action showed that. Secondly his actions were not motivated by his love for Er-Hu's wife. That was what Zhang mistakenly believed.

As for the acting Jet was very good here but once again this is a character he is very accustomed to playing. A stoic, almost emotionless, dangerous man. Andy Lau was his usual incredible self and I believe he will win the Asian film Awards best actor award, which he (as well as Jet Li) are nominated for.
The real story here though is the performance by Kaneshiro Takeshi which is in my opinion his flat-out best work I've ever seen from him.

The war scenes were well done with just enough grittiness to make it believable without being hokey. Almost no Martial Arts at all with the exception of a couple of sword fights by Andy Lau. Which was fine for me as it wasnt needed.

Apparently The Warlords is up for a TON of awards and rightly so. Very rarely have I watched a movie that I had to immediately call somone to tell about. This was one of those cases. I truly enjoyed the now 4 hours spent watching this movie and recommend others to do the same.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 03/06/2008

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.

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Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 02/24/2008
Summary: blood brothers...

china, in the mid-nineteenth century, is suffering from the oppression of the corrupt qing dynasty. er-hu (andy lau), a charismatic and honourable leader of men, and wu-zhang (takeshi kaneshiro), a romantic idealist who craves peace, are bandits; fighting to save their village which is caught up in the struggles of the taiping rebellion. when these two men encounter pang (jet li), a former officer of qing's army, his prowess on the battlefield, tactical nous and desire to end the suffering of china, they bond strongly.

after successfully combining in battle, the three become blood brothers and pool their collective skills, in the form of a new regiment that joins the forces of qing, in an attempt to bring the civil war to an end. pang is fiercely ambitious and committed, er-hu's honourable nature and inspirational nature make him a perfect foil, whilst wu-zhang finds himself swept up by the rhetoric and aspirations of pang, even to the degree that he begins to value his vision over his ties to er-hu. the stage is set for these three men to lead a small force into a series of battles which can decide the future of china but, ultimately, will test their bond of brotherhood...

well, this is the third version of this story which has been brought to the big screen; 'blood brothers' and 'blade of fury', being the other incarnations. it is, however, the first of these films which i've watched, so the story was completely new to me, which probably enhanced the viewing experience.

after a glut of chinese epics being produced in recent years, some being much more successful than others, it's good to see another production which is, quite simply, solid. it is a film which relies on the performances of its leads and strength of narrative, as much as it does on its scale and spectacle; that's not to say that it's completely successful on all fronts, but it makes a bloody good effort.

andy lau does a good job, even if he is playing a role that is very much within his range but, in this instance, it's quite good to have someone who fits nicely into a role and brings a degree of gravitas as a result. takeshi kaneshiro, who's cinematic output seems to have dried up a little in the past few years, also does well; injecting a touch of something different, as he sits, quite youthfully, between lau and li. and, it is jet li, who steals the show: having shown a wider range than one would have imagined, when he pulled off a more introspective role in 'fearless', he really shines here. after so many roles which just haven't given him the opportunity to show that he can act, it seems as if he is finally being allowed to act and not just perform for the camera. here, as a darker, driven and flawed character, he really gets to show that he is more than a martial arts talent.

as for the spectacle, well, there are some highly impressive battle sequences: sequences which seemed to be on a loop outside every single dvd shop across hong kong (whilst jay chou and eason chen concerts were being played inside). the action mixes c.g.i., hundreds of extras, grand settings and scale, alongside intimate, bloody and furious hand to hand combat, more successfully than i have seen in any recent movie, with the first major battle being particularly impressive.

as for the narrative, although a little more character development would've been welcome, the way that smaller and bigger pictures; the relationship between the three, other members of the village, other armies and the manipulative nature of the powers who sit above them, is handled well. and, ultimately, manages to portray both the angles well. having watched the film in a couple of sittings, it is definitely something i will be watching again, in the near future...

good stuff...

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 02/23/2008
Summary: Feels like a epic but.............

..........falls short in my eyes.

I feel apart from Jet Li there is minimal character development with the other characters. There are some good battle scenes but when the war feels like it is finishing up, the story feels like its jumps too quickly into another direction and things happen quickly instead of building up to it.

Really Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro did not need to be in this picture. There is little of them to do apart from shouting.

STill its a enjoyable movie but has though (for me) those typically sad endings you get with movies made in china

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 01/26/2008

This is the third version of the story I've seen - the first, 1973's BLOOD BROTHERS, is one of the best Shaw Brothers' films, and the 1993 remake BLADE OF FURY is a strong piece of 90's style wu xia. WARLORDS takes the core of the tale and renders it in the 21st Century big budget historical drama, where it remains a strong story but trades some visual spectacle for a somewhat diminished sense of drama and human emotions. Although the overall story is the same, it seems to lose some of the moral ambiguity, and character motivations are at once simpler and less convincing.

Jet Li clearly relishes the chance to play a darker character than any I can recall, and is proving in his later years that he really is an actor, not just a fighter. Andy Lau is stuck with a role too close to that of A BATTLE OF WITS to really give a memorable performance, and Takeshi Kaneshiro is a little over-stretched by his character so plays it pretty close to HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS.

The film is as expensive- and professional-looking as any of the big budget historicals of recent years, with great special effects and old-fashioned armies of extras creating some really impressive battle scenes and a convincing impression of days of yore (actually only 150 years or so ago). As is usually the case though, all those extra dollars seem to put more distance between the audience and the characters on screen, and the end result is not quite as enjoyable as the older versions.

Reviewer Score: 7