Some time ago, I (Kelly) took the time to watch “The Warlords” starring Jet Li, Andy Lau, and Takeshi Kaneshiro. And, much like the first time I watched "Shaolin", I made the mistake of watching it alone. As a result, there was much weeping and gnashing of the teeth, and I’m fairly sure I went through a whole box of kleenex with the epic crying and sad.
But I digress.
“The Warlords” is the most epic epic that modern Chinese film making has epiced. Fo realz. This is 2 hours and 6 minutes of epic ERHMAHGERRD that just keeps sinking to new levels of ERHMAHGERRRD that you honestly couldn’t fathom. And, when you pair this with the knowledge that this reflects a very specific time in China’s long and tumultuous warring Qing Dynasty period, you find yourself sort of emotionally devastated and numb… and shocked… and sad.
OH, and thank you Andy Lau for your giant crocodile tears, because that makes the sad SO MUCH MORE SAD!!!!
The story begins with bloody bodies, monks, smoke, and generalize death and burning through the countryside. General Pang Qingyun (Jet Li) finds himself as the only survivor in this widespread bloodbath that has happened.
And, within minutes you can see that there is some adverse effect to his mental state. And in all honesty, it is the first 10 minutes of this films that defines the “DEAR SWEET GOD!!!” that will unfold.
You know, that pivotal moment in your own psyche when you can’t decide if you want to just passively run away and cry...
BURN THAT MOTHER TO THE GROUND!!!!!
OOoh, sorry… Have I gone too far here?
The General wanders into a shelled out looking home, finds a woman, has a thing, and THEN builds his new strategy for revenge as he realizes that he was a tool to the “big guys”, sitting in the big chair, playing Chinese checkers with the lives of the people under their “governorship”. And thus we set out on a wicked, twisted, winding, HOLY CRAP, two hour path to revenge.
Ok. Shortly thereafter, the General wanders into a rebel camp. The people are generally happy, but entirely unaccepting of outside people. That is, unless they get the endorsement of the rebel leaders, and beloved brothers:
|Zhao Er-Hu (The strong fist of the people)|
|Zhang Wen-Xiang (The wild eyed little brother optimistically dreaming of ultimate power and wealth).|
The two brothers are as close as close can be, inseparable, and are sworn by blood to be loyal to the very end. And, though it would be easy enough to switch teams and joint the resistance, this would make for a fairly happy, champion-esque, western style film with rainbows and unicorns at the end.
This is most certainly NOT that movie.
Rather, these men are “mainlanders”, but are most certainly NOT idiots. But the General is faaaaaar more crafty, is a master of strategy and waging war. So, yeah. That’s pretty straightforward math right there.OH. And that lady that he had the “thing” with. Yeah. That’s the deeply loved lover of the older brother. Ssssso, there’s that whole secret love affair and ultimate “knife in the back” element that you need to keep in mind for future death by a thousand emotional swords bit.
Now, through each step of this film you see shocking realizations, role reversals, fear where there was once none, the breaking down of a people at the hands of one hellbent on revenge, the technicalities of historical, cultural relationships within Chinese Imperial and military culture. You see how dangerous zealous loyalty can be, how personal perspective is a miniscule factor in the whole of existence, how it takes only one sick and manipulative/strategic mind the drive apart family to the point of betrayal, and ultimate how, when revenge is the fuel behind action, the actions of the one are no better than the actions of the many. Innocent people to die. And in the end, sucky people have nothing to show but the sucking hole of destruction left behind.
... And SERIOUSLY General Pang Qingyun!
Let it go man.
Try picking up a friggin' hobby, like woodcrafting or chicken recipes. It seemed to work out ok for General Tso!
Moral of the film: People suck. They suck a lot. But people in high places of power and those with an out of control revenge rage suck even more. They suck with the most epic suck that ever sucked.
Now, if I am being entirely vague about the “nuts and bolts” of this movie, that’s because you REALLY need to watch it as any details I give will ruin the experience. No. I'm serious. You need to witness the utter breakdown and the lengths that General Pang Qingyun takes the brothers Zhao Er-Hu and Zhang Wen-Xiang to in order to get back at the political people/clansmen he felt betrayed by.
But this is a REALLY great film. The cinematography is stellar. Historical costuming, amazing. The writing and acting is mind blowing. The brutality and violence… on an 11.
You can rent this film from any of your local retailers. It is also on Netflix, and could likely be rented or purchase on any of your digital platform retailers (iTunes, Amazon, etc). Next week’s blog will be co-written once again by myself and our darling MJ who has been away for a few weeks on family related stuffs. So, be sure to go out and get your Depends before then.
-The Maven (Kelly)