by Tim Birkbeck
There are many concepts that will always run a familiar theme or have a common feel in film. When a film is based around martial arts you know it is going to have some kick-ass action sequence where the story may not be that necessary.
In Yang Lu directed Brotherhood of Blades case it’s is like if the Three Musketeers were present during the Ming Dynasty. The film follows Shen Lian (Chang Chen), his loyal companion Jianxing (Wang Qianyuan) and a younger new arrival on the team named Jin Yichuan (Ethan Li) who are all part of the Imperial Assassins government secret police.
They are tasked with killing Wei Zhongxian (Chin Shi Chieh) who has plans to take control of China and overthrow the newly appointed emperor. However, when the task at hand is complete and they head home to find that their superior is suspicious about the circumstances surrounding their mission.It is from here the drama begins to unfold, not just for the trio, but within their friendship as well, as each has their own agenda of what they want to do now that are back at HQ.
Being set in the 1620s, Brotherhood of Blades does give a perspective of the history of this time, which may not otherwise be explored. It was a pleasant surprise that this was not a balls to the wall action martial arts film. Ok, yes there is a lot of fighting and violence in this film. Right from the off there is a sword fight and someone is brutally killed, you do start to think as a viewer this is going to be full throttle fighting, but the storytelling does have its weight .
One of the main issues with this film is that as a viewer I do not feel invested in any of the main three characters, there is no sense of reliability to the main trio. Out of any of the characters, it is one of the minor players who actually brings about the most intrigue. Ding Xiu (Yiwei Zhou) is a lot of fun to watch with his obscenely sized sword and relationship to Yichuan who both had the same master and that’s why he extorts money and later agrees to chop him in half.
Brotherhood of Blades provides a pretty effective mix of drama and flat out martial arts action. The action scenes are predictably effortless and brutal, but there is no one sequence that stands out about the rest, they are all just pretty good. As far as martial arts films go Brotherhood of Blades is fun, but it is in no sense ground breaking either.
Brotherhood of Blades is out now as a DVD/Blu-ray.
Dir: Yang Lu
Runtime: 117 minutes