Written by: Michael Den Boer on January 28th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: China, 2014
Director: Lu Yang
Writers: Lu Yang, Shu Chen
Cast: Chang Chen, Shih-Chieh Chin, Zhu Dan, Dong-xue Li, Shishi Liu, Yuan Nie, Qianyuan Wang, Qing Ye, Lixin Zhao, Yi Wei Zhou, Yiwei Zhou, Dan Zhu
BluRay released: February 10th, 2015
Approximate running time: 112 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Mandarin, Dolby Digital Stereo Mandarin, DTS-HD 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Stereo English
BluRay Release: Well Go USA
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.98
Synopsis: Set in the late part of the Ming Dynasty. The Secret Police of the Imperial Guard are given the task by their new emperor to apprehend a once prominent Eunuch and his loyal followers. From there three elite guards are chosen for the mission and shortly after their arrival its soon becomes apparent that all is not what is seems. And during their attempt to apprehend and extract the Eunuch from his heavily guarded compound. Things take a turn for the worse when the man they were supposed to bring in alive dies in a fire. Then shortly after their return from their mission. Things take a turn for the worse when it becomes clear that they were pawns who were set up to fail. Will they be able to clear their name or has their fate already been sealed?
The film’s narrative is well constructed and pacing is never an issue as things move along at a very brisk pace. Content wise, the films deals with subjects like loyalty, heroism and political corruption which leads to the majority of this film’s acts of betrayal. Also this film does a superb job establishing who everyone is and what their motivations are?
From a visual stand point this film delivers the goods and then some. And when it comes to the action set pieces they are inventive and well executed. With this film’s most memorable scene being a melodramatic moment where one of the three elite guards goes to pick a courtesan that he has been trying to gain her freedom. And before he is able to convince her to leave with him the place is besieged by dozens of assassins.
Performance wise the entire cast are all superb in their respective roles. With this film’s strongest performance coming from Chen Chang (Happy Together, Red Cliff) in the role of Shen Lian. Far too often the hero’s in Wuxia films are one dimensional. Fortunately he creates a multilayered character that goes against the grain. Other stand out performances of note are Liu Shishi (Badges of Fury) in the role of Zhou Miaotong, the courtesan that Shen Lian is trying to rescue and Yi Wei Zhou (The Guillotines) in the role of Ding Xiu, a blackmailer that has been extorting money from Jin Yichuan, one of the three elite assassins.
On the surface Brotherhood of Blades looks like another prototype Wuxia film. Fortunately the end result is something that does not fall into familiar trappings of this genre. Where far too many of these films sacrifice substance in favor of style. Ultimately Brotherhood of Blades is a rare example of a contemporary Chinese film that finds a perfect balance between these two worlds.
Brotherhood of Blades comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. This film does a superb job retaining the intended look of this film. Details look crisp, black and contrast levels look consistently strong. There are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with four audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Mandarin, a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in Mandarin, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English and a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in English. Dialog is always clear, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs too. All the audio mixes sound great. With the edge going to the DTS-HD 5.1 mixes which offer a more dynamic sound experience then their Dolby Digital Stereo counterparts. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles that are easy to read and follow.
Extras for this release are limited to trailer for the film and trailers for other titles also available from Well Go USA. Overall Well Go USA gives Brotherhood of Blades a first rate audio / presentation.
Note: This film is also being released by Well Go USA on DVD.