The essence of mainstream Chinese cinema reflects in certain values and textures of the mythic. In Brothers, the ideal reflects back in the war in the 1920s between the nationalist and the communist factions in China. While the ideology is not specifically addressed, the specific story is integrated between two brothers indoctrinated into the army but ultimately through circumstance they find themselves on separate sides. The filmmaking structure of the technology according to the behind the scenes bonus features began in 2010 and the film was purely made on a stage with green screen. The look of the film reflects that mostly of “Sin City” and, to a lesser point, “300” (made in 2005 and 2006 respectively). Creating whole battle sequences on water and on mountains in this way is interesting but obviously labor intensive as the film didn’t come out until 2016. The conflict involves the older brother Wang and the younger brother Chen coming to terms with the men they have become and their loyalty to those they serve. The underlying narrative structure involves Chen being assigned after a particularly brutal battle to escort some female musicians to a place called High City for a performance. His brother, now part of an assassin squad, finds them and their conflict of ideals begins. While the dialogue is very matter of fact, the texture of the relationship makes definite sense as it does rouse to an almost blindsided conclusion until the resolution is structured. The bonus features also speak to the two actors’ approach to their perspective characters but the enclosed trailer does give away too much of the plot. “Brothers” shows the continually evolving market’s ability to try new things while remaining in certain element of mythic themes resonant to the individual.
By Tim Wassberg
Taking the gangster genre and making it your own with a sense of mythic always has its upstarts. And granted with most of the exceptional material initially in the sector coming out of Hong Kong, it seems there are only so many distinct way to approach this element. They key is when one takes away fight sequences and blood and gore, there needs to be a solid backbone to the progression. Korea continues to show its prevalence in showing its acuity in finding and portraying these stories. “New World” approaches this progression from the viewpoint of “The Departed” which in turn got its original from “Infernal Affairs”. The tendency and test is one of loyalty but when the progression breaks down into half truths and lesser evils, the road always becomes a bit narrower.
Here, the balance of person in question is Lee Ja Sung who has been ensconced as a number two man in a crime syndicate simply biding his time before he can expose the criminals and bring them to justice. His handler in police captain Kang is one of both envy and pathos. What makes this relationship work is the interesting dichotomy of placing Choi Min-Sik, famous for the title character of “Old Boy”, one of the most acclaimed and country crossing breakout hits in recent Korean cinema, as this balancing character. He has his own agenda but is seemingly bemused by the whole progression.
While the rain soaked essence begins as mostly a farce in certain ways playing against tropes especially with the over-enunciated characters in Lee Joong-Chu and Jung Chung, both of which subscribe to an overindulgent sense of style and theatricality, the tension that builds towards the end, once Jung himself is played by Kang, brings out the brutality. In a tense scene inside a wharf edged warehouse, what initially seems to be a husband killing his wife and unborn child stuffing them into a oil drum seems to take on almost Shakespearean overtones. However, ironically enough, this is an unintended misdirect as we see Lee Ja Sung’s wife indeed survive (as she was mistaken for another character in this instance) but still as abruptly loses the baby, though not her life.
From this point onward there is an energy, most aptly seen in a garage in an out-and-out garage fight which does not use the tropes of fight combat or guns. It simply uses fists and bats, down and dirty, which progresses into an elevator where Jung, like Tony Montana, will spit in eye of his oppressors until the very end. The irony builds, especially on his deathbed, where a very specific forgiveness and baton is generated. This ultimately gives the picture a weight of a position unwanted but inevitable where decisions must be made and heads must roll simply to keep the piece, but done so in an effective, slick and well told way despite one glaring plot hole.