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S (1986)

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 10/28/2008

For even the newest viewer of Hong Kong films, cop movies and Danny Lee go hand-in-hand. Since the early 1980's, "Officer Lee" has been synonymous with playing hard-boiled policemen on the edge, which has been a double-edged sword. It has given him a lot of success and able to find a steady stream of work through the years. However, a good number of Lee's films were frankly cheaply-made rushjobs and have given Lee a bit of a stigma with some viewers. This might explain why a gem like Brotherhood has slipped under many people's radars.

In the film, Lee plays Lui, who along with his partner, Keung (Alex Man), are among the best cops in Hong Kong. But their high success rate comes at a high level of violence, and after Keung goes too far with a suspect, he is thrown off the force. Falling into debt, Keung starts borrowing from a loan shark who then convinces him to help a crew pull off a series of jewel heists to earn some more money. Lui wants to protect his friend, so he keeps his knowledge of Keung's activities away from his superiors, which soon makes Lui a suspect himself. Things become even more complicated when Lui's brother, Kwok (Lam Wai) begins to investigate the robbery cases.

This sort of plot is pretty standard Hong Kong cop picture stuff. There aren't any big twists present, and the movie doesn't derivate much from the template followed by most films of this genre, right down to an ultra-violent downbeat ending that doesn't offer much in the way of resolution. But the proceedings are saved by Danny Lee's performance. He plays Lui with a cool intensity that really stands out, especially against movies from this same period, which tended to favor melodramatics.

Some note should also be made of Alex Man. Like a lot of actors who worked during the "golden age", Man appeared in dozens of films, but yet never seemed to ascend to real "star" status. It's kind of a shame, because based on his output here, Man shows himself to be capable of being a damn fine actor under the right director. The supporting cast also, for the most part, does a good job, especially Shing Fui-On, who specialized in playing heavies and seems to relish his role here as the slightly psychotic leader of Keung's robbing crew.

If you're expecting some John Woo-style gunfights here, you might be disappointed. Though there is some action, and what is done is done well, Brotherhood falls much more squarely into the drama side of the action/drama sandwich. And with Stephen Shin's sure direction, a nice sense of dark style, and solid acting performances, that's not a bad thing. On the surface, Brotherhood might seem a bit generic, but after watching a few minutes, it becomes a film that's more than the sum of its' parts, and is highly recommended if you're into Hong Kong crime movies.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: mpongpun
Date: 08/31/2003

Yeah, I know, Danny Lee in another cop flick. Danny Lee even garnered a nomination for best actor for his role in this flick at the 6th annual Hong Kong film Award Show. This one has Danny playing a hard working cop named Ah Lui whose best friend is another cop, Ah Keung (Alex Man). Both cops are walking on a paper bridge when it comes to the procedure of the cops capturing the crooks. Both have the attitude of “You’re either damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. Most of the time, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so the two would rather pound on the crooks a few good times rather than kindly asking them nicely to fall to the ground. Yeah, kill them with kindness. Anyways, Ah Keung goes a little overboard and beats the hell out of one of the bad guys. Ah Keung’s Supervisor takes exception to the way he knocks out the bad guys which causes both to get in a heated exchange which ends in Ah Keung quitting the force. Attempting to try his luck in the real world, Ah Keung borrows some cash from a loan shark to buy a lorry (British term for a motortruck) and pay for some his Father’s medical expenses, but soon drowns himself under financial burden as he doesn’t have enough loot to pay off those loan sharks. Eventually, good buddy Ah Lui tries to work it out with the loan sharks on behalf of Ah Keung, but he later falls into their trap (abusing police power) as Ah Lui is later suspended and placed on leave pending an internal investigation. Without any way to make ends meet and pay off those pesky loan sharks, Ah Keung heads down the wrong path and partakes in a jewelry heist with a gang of coolies. The heist goes awry and the loot that they jacked is lost in the commotion from fleeing from the cops. Ah Lui, a passerby just out on leave from the force, hawks down the fleeing bad guys and manages to snare one of them. The guy who he manages to bag is his buddy, Ah Keung! Ah Lui not wanting to put his buddy behind bars misleads the investigators by lying in his report. Ah Lui personally tries to straighten out Ah Keung himself, but with all the hoopla going on, the Police force and his kid Inspector brother, Raymond (Vincent Lam), suspect Ah Lui in being with cahoots with Ah Keung--the furthest from the truth. What a dilemma! Eventually, Ah Lui tries to deal with Ah Keung, one on one, buddy to buddy, but Ah Keung’s gang isn’t having any of it as they would rather see Ah Lui killed. Also, the Hong Kong Police and all of their special units are nearby and twitching to pull their triggers on the bad guys and that includes Ah Lui. All in all, the flick has its moments, and the ending is kind of reminiscent of a few triad flicks that were made during the time, such as City on Fire . Excellent flick for Danny Lee fans, but for those that are getting weary of “blood-brother” movies, then you may want to pass on this flick.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/21/1999

Two friends, two cops, two partners. Male bonding - a reoccurringtheme in many cop actioners. Brotherhood and loyalty is put to the test between two friends when one takes a wrong turn for the worst.

[Reviewed by Tai Seng Catalog]