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“Contemplative and markedly gritty… serving up plenty of exciting spectacle” — James Mudge, BEYONDHOLLYWOOD.COM
“A meaty drama of friendship, ambition and betrayal… laden with gritty action, but with an emotional undertow” — Derek Elley, VARIETY
Director: Peter Chan
Screenplay: Xu Lan, Chun Tin-Nam, Aubery Lam, Huang Jian Xin, Jojo Hui, He Jiping, Guo Jun Li, James Yuen
Cast: Jet Li, Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Xu Jinglei
Producers: Peter Chan, Andre Morgan
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Forget the heroic purity of Jet Li’s memorable personification of Fong Sai-Yuk, or Wong Fei-Hung in the ONCE UPON A TIME series. Brace yourself as Li embodies General Pang, a conflicted leader on the battlefields of 19th-century China who gradually metamorphoses from hero to villain. Corrupt Manchus and the Taiping Rebellion have triggered civil unrest, poverty is omnipresent and flagrant killing has surround the Chinese as they descend into one of the darkest periods in their history.
Left for dead, his entire army slaughtered, General Pang is nursed back to health by Lian (Xu Jinglei), a mysterious woman who will eventually cause his downfall. As he wanders the country, he forges an iron-clad brotherhood with Zhao (Andy Lau) and Jiang (Takeshi Kaneshiro). Together, the trio leads hundreds of soldiers, many of them former bandits, into battle, winning victory after victory. But Pang’s dedication to the brotherhood is tainted by his lust for Lian, who is in fact Zhao’s wife, and his growing desire for more power. While battling at SuZhou, the shrinking food supply brings his legion to their physical and mental threshold. Zhao secretly enters the enemy camp, where the men may be open to idea of unconditional surrender if fed. But will Pang feed them or chose to eliminate them to ensure a bigger victory? What will Pang do about his blood brother Zhao?
WARLORDS was the bona fide champion of last year’s Chinese box office and captured a tsunami of Hong Kong Film Awards (the HK Oscars) including Best Picture, Director and much deserved acting award for Jet Li’s multilayered characterization. The tale is loosely inspired by the real and controversial events surrounding the assassination of General Ma, which were also recreated in 1973 Shaw Brothers classic BLOOD BROTHERS, directed by Chang Cheh. WARLORDS director Peter Chan mounts this lavish and ambitious production with jawdropping battle scenes on an epic scale, comparable to SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and BATTLE OF WITS. Ching Siu-Tung (CHINESE GHOST STORY, HERO) expertly executes the chorography, firmly grounded in reality with rifles, spears, cannons and martial arts! Director Chan seamless integrates the emotional drama and the furious warfare. The usual slickness of the big-budget film has been jettisoned in favour of dirt, grit, bleakness and the grey areas of the human soul stretched to new levels.