The title of Peter Ho-Sun Chan’s “The Warlords” alone was evidence enough that this epic Chinese period film was going to be a dudes-only film, but that didn’t stop me. Three reasons: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Jet Li and Andy Lau. As most Hong Kong film fans know, they are something of a trinity. Such is the case in The Warlords as the story revolves around a bromance portrayed by the trinity. A more complicated Three Musketeers comes to mind.
Set in the midst of war and political upheaval during the Taiping Rebellion of the 1860s, WARLORDS stars Jet Li as General Pang, who barely survives a brutal massacre of his fellow soldiers by playing dead, and joins a band of bandits led by Er Hu (Andy Lau) and Wu Yang (Takeshi Kaneshiro). After fighting back attackers from an helpless village, the three men take an oath to become “blood brothers,” pledging loyalty to one another until death, but things quickly turn sour and the three men become embroiled in a web of political deceit, and a love triangle between Pang, Er Hu and a beautiful courtesan (Wu Jing-Lei).
What I enjoyed most about The Warlords was that there was a good balance between the action-packed epic war movie it set out to be and the drama of the story which was based on an unsolved crime. Although one can easily label the story as a bromance, it’s not at all cheesy due to the great performances put on by the main cast. The way the film was edited also maintains this balance. One scene that exemplifies this was the scene where General Pang deceives Er Hu and guards drag Er Hu out of sight. As Er Hu is being dragged, the film cuts to General Pang remaining dead center of the shot with a look of hurt that words can hardly express. It’s fact that guys don’t express themselves much with words, and I think both the director and actors really nailed this about the nature of men.
I also enjoyed that when things got too sappy, the film immediately cuts to another action packed scene. What’s most notable about The Warlords was the 10 minute battle scene — to me it didn’t feel like it was 10 minutes because I was so drawn to the action. Given that this is Peter Ho-Sun Chan’s first war movie (his previous films include a romantic comedy musical), I have to say that this says a lot about his talent as a director.
Overall, The Warlords was a good movie with appeal that extends to both men and women (hello main cast) despite largely being a bro movie. If you enjoy dramatic, epic war films, this one’s for you.
The Warlords is out in theaters Friday, April 2. For more information visit the official site here.