Friday, July 02, 2010
THE WARLORDS IS HELL (IN A GOOD WAY)
The Warlords is an astonishing movie. Flawed, but still spectacular. It's not a five-hour epic like Red Cliff, though both feature Takeshi Kaneshiro; it gets in and out in under two hours, but almost all of that time is well spent.
Kaneshiro, Andy Lau and Jet Li play two thieves and a soldier who become blood brothers and swear undying loyalty to one another. Unfortunately, their bond is repeatedly tested and found wanting. Li was a military officer whose entire command was massacred after being betrayed by a rival army; he recruits Lau and Kaneshiro, and their men, and begins a decade-long plan to take over the Chinese empire from within. It almost works.
There are some amazing (and amazingly gory) battle scenes in this movie, and it's really not all that heroic a saga, in the end. Li proves himself to be a vengeance-crazed megalomaniac, and it's some of his best work ever—there are a few moments where he abandons his usual reserved demeanor to such a degree he's almost channeling Klaus Kinski. And the closer he gets to what he wants, the more he becomes a Michael Corleone figure (though I enjoyed this more than I've ever enjoyed the chunks of the Godfather movies I've been able to sit through). Lau is the movie's moral center, though he's not a Mary Sue character by any means.
The one element that should have been excised was a pointless love triangle featuring Kaneshiro, Li, and a woman of absolutely no consequence. That aside, The Warlords is a terrific movie well worth your time if you like massive battles, betrayal, corruption, etc., etc.