The Warlords (2009)

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Jet Li, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Andy Lau unite to play three blood brothers who lead a bandit army to victory during Chinese civil war in the mid 19th century.

There is something very western about The Warlords. Perhaps it is the reliance on big star names rather than a rich ensemble cast. Perhaps it is the committee written script – although I fail to see why so many names needed to be attached to such a sparse affair. Perhaps it was the fact that all the attention to detail and effort went to the bombastic slow motion battle sequences. Whatever it is, The Warlords felt far more like something in the vein of Oliver Stone’s Alexander than Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or Hero. There is a real lack of humanity about it and the barely sketched out characters did little more than spout sound bite style platitudes about honour while they showed their “depth” by shedding a tear when doing what “must be done” – ie butcher innocent, unarmed people. In fact there is a real dubious morality about it all, it smacking of the kind of apologistic fascism of 24, particularly during the Kaneshiro speech when he finally “understands” about having to kill to do the right thing which left an especially nasty taste in my mouth. I didn’t really care about any of the characters, only Andy Lau garnering any sympathy at all and their relationships and characterisation are less than minimal. For the finale, some mildly interesting political machinations at long last come into effect, although even then the blatant misogyny of Kaneshiro’s “solution” to the brothers feud is less than pleasant.

As is the case with nearly all of its Hollywood counterparts, The Warlods contains some impressive visual spectacle but everything else about it is soulless, mechanical and ill conceived.

4.5/10

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