Yang Lu’s XIN CHUN DAO (BROTHERHOOD OF BLADES)
It’s 1627 in Old China. There’s a new Emperor in town. The old eunuch-led clique running the government has been deposed. Their leader has disappeared -- along with a lot of gold.
Three low ranking members of the Imperial police force are assigned to bring the escaped despot back.
Why are these three in particular assigned? What will they do when they finally locate the deposed leader? Why does it seem that, every time they turn around, they're being attacked, lied to, harassed, and otherwise treated like bad guys?
And who, in fact, is the enemy?
I thought going into it Brotherhood of Blades was going to be another martial arts and wire-work display complete with extravagant sets and costumes but with low dramatic content.
But I was very pleasantly surprised! Yes, the production values and photography are gorgeous, as are the costumes. But the real focus throughout is on character development and story, punctuated, of course, with some exciting swordplay.
We get to know these three “assassins” and their back stories through a series of well-crafted flashbacks and meetings with both rivals and lovers. They are definitely not saints. The "palace intrigue" behind their assignment becomes increasingly problematic as the movie progresses.
Finally we have to wonder if anyone – including the three -- can be trusted. Given the steadily rising body count from the impressive swordplay and crossbow action we also wonder if anyone is going to survive through to the end of the movie.
The story is a bit convoluted at times as layers of guilt, subterfuge, lies, and intrigue are piled on. Towards the end, too, we witness some hard to believe plot twists that strain credulity. But there's a lot more on display here than just pretty pictures, CGI, and silly wire work. Recommended!
Review copyright © 2017 by Dennis D. McDonald