Brotherhood of Blades is probably one of the best wuxia films released in the West in years. For those who don’t know, wuxia is the distinctly Chinese style of film where over the top fight scenes and expert choreography combine with martial arts, weapon exhibitions, and historically based settings and plots for the most part. While this can be campy and ridiculous when done badly, as in the case of Brotherhood, it just looks plain amazing all the time.
The film is set in 1627, where a powerful imperial court member has been deposed by the new emperor. The emperor’s secret police, including a team of our three protagonists, are tasked with hunting down anyone who may be linked as a supporter to this deposed power, as well as the man himself. As they finally catch up with him, one of the team makes a decision that will have potentially disastrous consequences for him and his friends.
Brotherhood of Blades has fantastic fights and choreography that sits on the perfect side of being awesome while still almost being believable. The camera tracks the action fantastically and there’s really a muddled moment in these intense scenes. However, action scenes on their own are not enough. The characters, from our three main heroes to the villains, are all wonderfully characterised and in depth. We understand what makes them tick and drives them. They are also all distinct and even side characters are memorable and interesting in their own way.
The setting also feels authentic and detailed, and the movie feels like it goes on forever, way past its two-hour runtime. And that’s a good thing. It gives the film a feeling of being an epic without actually dragging on and on through useless scenes.
If you’re a fan of this genre or even just action movies in general, this is worth a look. Its only available with subtitles over Chinese speech, and there are a few Chinese idioms that don’t translate amazingly, but for the most part you shouldn’t suffer too much.