Dec 12, 2007|
(China/HK) This Qing Dynasty war epic is an impressive show of soldiers and horses clashing on bloodied battlefields. Pang Qing-Yun (Jet Li, Fearless) leads his two blood brothers, Zhao Er-hu (Andy Lau, Brothers) and Jiang Wu-Yang (Takeshi Kaneshiro, Confession of Pain) into strategic warfare. Inevitably and expectedly, their bond becomes threatened by blind ambition and subsequent betrayals. Li is in his element (with or without shining armor) and helms the cast in this blockbuster, which should be more aptly titled The Warlord. Singular.
While the fast-paced action sequences are definitely gripping, the love triangle between Er-hu, his woman Lian (Xu JingLei, Confession of Pain) and big brother Qing-Yun, is more of a distraction than a worthy subplot. The love affair was neither necessary in propelling the story forward, nor crucial in adding extra depth to each character.
However, the film does not fail in its primary purpose—a study of heroes, anti-heroes and the betrayal of the human heart. In the grand game of strategy, chess players become pawns and self-righteousness is often a big stumbling block. The essence of the story teaches that bravery and foresight is nothing without insight.
Some credit goes to Lau and Kaneshiro for keeping up consistent portrayals of the brash and unsuspecting second brother, and the naïve and loyal third brother. With everyone else giving only mediocre performances, the only truly lordly effort came from Jet Li, to whom one-third of the film’s budget went, in case you hadn't heard already.