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Blood Brothers

By Eve M. Ferguson
Published August 25, 2008

Director Alexi Tan and famed director-turned-producer John Woo take advantage of the liberal standards of Hong Kong (which adhere to a distinctly looser version of the Chinese rating system) and the facilities of Taiwan to make a gangster tale of three country boys who venture out from an idyllic small town in China’s Shanghai province to take on the big city.

This film falls in line with more classic Chinese cinema, where the spaghetti western is revered and imitated, albeit in distinctly Asian style. Set in the 1930s and inspired by Woo’s Bullet In The Head, this action-packed portrayal of lust, violence and revenge lends an aura of excitement to what would ordinarily be a humdrum mob story. Ah Feng (Daniel Wu), the romantic hero, his best friend Da Gang (Liu Ye) and Da’s little brother Xiao Hu (Tony Yang), endeavor to get jobs as waiters at the Gates Of Paradise nightclub, where Da’s uncle Qi works. Before long they are recruited by the ruthless owner Boss Hong (Sun Hong-Lei), whose lover Lulu (Shu Qi) is the object of all men’s affection. Ah inadvertently makes friends with Boss Hong’s brother Mark (Chang Chen) when the latter shows up at his door gravely injured in a counter-hit. Da discovers that Mark is Boss Hong’s enforcer, and in gratitude for saving his life, Mark elevates the three “blood brothers” to high status in Boss Hong’s mob. The brothers are rapidly sucked into the underworld, carrying out torture schemes and hits that leave them conflicted.

As with any good gangster flick, the plot takes twists and turns. Feng inevitably falls for Lulu and realizes that she is actually Mark’s longtime lover, while Da quickly morphs into a gangster more brutal than Boss Hong, whom he kills in a turf war. With lavish club scenes and Hollywood-style dance numbers, Blood Brothers is an old-school gangster flick, with a big nod to Sergio Leone and Woo himself, complete with shoot-’em-up scenes and glitzy melodrama.