From He's a Woman, She's a Man
to Comrades, Almost a Love Story
to Perhaps Love
, Peter Chan seems to have perfected the formula for commercial filmmaking. Chan is the rare director who connects with both mainstream audiences and arthouse critics, so it's no surprise that his first stab at the big-budget war epic, The Warlords
, has become one of Hong Kong's biggest blockbusters of 2007. Superstars Jet Li, Andy Lau, and Takeshi Kaneshiro star in this grand and gritty tale of war, romance, and brotherhood in 19th-century China. Based on Chang Cheh's Blood Brothers
, the film features action choreography from Ching Siu Tung (Hero
) and impressive, large-scale battle scenes befitting of the big screen. Jet Li gives the most compelling dramatic performance of his career, departing from his previous image to embody a complex, morally torn character. Also starring acclaimed Mainland actress Xu Jinglei (Confession of Pain
), The Warlords
is one of the greatest cinematic events of 2007, and Hong Kong has answered its call with record box office numbers.
The Warlords is set during the Taiping Rebellion when the Qing Dynasty was brought to its knees by a militant demagogue who attracted hundreds of thousands of disgruntled insurgents to his cause, thrusting the nation into chaotic infighting and warlordism. Emerging from a field of corpses, Qing General Pang (Jet Li) is the only member of his troop to survive a fatal battle with enemy forces. Wandering through the impoverished land, he encounters young outlaw Jiang (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and ends up joining a gang of bandits led by the brash and brazen Zhao (Andy Lau). Realizing that the only way to survive during such times is to join the fight, Pang, Zhao, and Jiang form their own army and offer their services to the Qing. Bounded by their blood oath, the sworn brothers lay down their lives for victory on the battlefield, but their brotherhood is tested by politics, personal ambition, and rivalry for the hand of Zhao's wife (Xu Jinglei).