TV & Video Reviews: ‘The Warlords’

TV & Video Reviews: ‘The Warlords’

Chinese legends are some of the best subjects of storytelling because they are intriguing and, like a Shakespearean tale, often end in tragedy. General Pang Qingyun (Jet Li) is the sole survivor of a bloody battle that saw him lose all the men he commanded during the Qing Dynasty. However, he finds a new lease […]

Chinese legends are some of the best subjects of storytelling because they are intriguing and, like a Shakespearean tale, often end in tragedy.

General Pang Qingyun (Jet Li) is the sole survivor of a bloody battle that saw him lose all the men he commanded during the Qing Dynasty. However, he finds a new lease on life when he joins a group of bandits and finds two men (Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro) who accept him as a blood brother. Together, with Pang’s military training, the trio move up the ranks becoming one of the most effective and eventually merciless Chinese armies. However, as Pang’s ambitions become more evident, his oath to his brothers comes into question.

This is definitely not your typical Dragon Dynasty-style film. The story is epic and the battles are equally affecting, but they do not consist of the now common elegant wire work. The fights occur on the battlefield at close range with swords and they are loud and bloody. Nonetheless, Li still orchestrates a couple of awe-inspiring sequences in a battle that is assumed to be lost, including the destruction of an entire row of canons single-handedly.

The story is intricate with many facets contributing to the narrative path, including politics, history, status, and one’s own search for power. For those entirely unfamiliar with the era and its protocol, the story may be somewhat difficult to follow at points though it should not pose too much of a problem. On the other hand, the love story stitched into the tale is unnecessary and takes away from the overall tale; it feels like the inclusion of a token female character that adds little to the plot.

Li delivers an excellent performance, as does Asian stars Lau and Kaneshiro. At just under two hours, The Warlords follows the typical pace of an epic Chinese picture, which is a roller coaster of personal drama and bloody battles.

Special features include: “The Warlords 117 Days: A Production Journal” and deleted scenes.