'The Warlords': Good Battle Scenes, Lame Love Story


Magnet Releasing

Warlords, a good but not great film, depicts the Chinese civil wars in the 1800s. My own preference in these flicks about ancient Asian warfare is to watch the movies showing the Japanese Samurai who held sway long, long ago before the age of gunpowder. The locales and uniforms are more exotic, and the personal stories are more interesting.

The three principal characters in The Warlords include General Pang (Jet Li), Elder Brother (Andy Lau), and an aide to the latter, Jiang Wu-Yang (Takeshi Kaneshiro). Pang is a general in the armies of the Dowager Empress. We meet him as the sole survivor of a battle, his entire army having been betrayed by another general in the same army who stood by as he and his men were slaughtered.

Elder Brother is the head of a village. The partisans take up arms to obtain food for the inhabitants to prevent them from starving. It's a long story, but ultimately the three men take an oath binding them as blood brothers. Lian (Xu Jinglei) is a woman who becomes the lover of both Pang and Elder Brother.

The best parts of the film are the battle scenes; the least interesting is the love story. Pang, who is only concerned with victory, is cruel. Elder Brother is virtuous and decent even to his enemies. Wu-Yang is only interested in keeping the three men together even if means eliminating Lian. Some reviewers extolled the movie excessively while others demeaned it too much. I think it is worth seeing but not one that must be seen. The original Seven Samurai is still the best.