If you're into martial arts movies with stunning fight choreography, Brotherhood of the Blades. will not disappoint you. The movie is a feast for the eyes. It is a 2014 Chinese film about brotherhood (obviously), loyalty, and love. The story is set in ancient China in the latter part of the Ming Dynasty. Ming is the time when eunuchs are powerful; thus, it is sometimes referred to as the Eunuch Dynasty.
However, after Emperor Chong Zhen succeeds the throne, he strips Wei Zhong Xian of his power and sends him to the remote area of Fengyang. Eunuch Wei has several followers known as the Clique which the emperor wants to get rid of. The emperor sends his imperial assassins to ransack homes and to arrest individuals who are involved with the organization.
Three skilled imperial assassins, Shen Lian, Lu Jian Xing, and Jin Yi Chuan, are asked to assassinate Wei on the emperor's orders. The message is delivered by the head of the secret police Zhou Jing Zhong. The three infiltrate the eunuch's hideout while Shen Lian comes face-to-face with the target. Before he is killed, Wei tries to negotiate with him. Shen is given two options - to kill Wei and accomplish his mission, or to spare him and get all of his money.Credit: Amazon
Emperor Chong Zhen and Wei Zhong Xian are real people. Emperor Chong Zhen is the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty. He is only 16 when he succeeded to the throne. Wei Zhong Xian, a compulsive gambler, is considered the most powerful and most notorious eunuch in Chinese history.
He is the main protagonist of the story. He is the only assassin who has come face-to-face with eunuch Wei during their mission to kill him. He deeply cares for his brothers. He is in love with a courtesan named Zhou Miao Tong.
Lu Jian Xing
He is the oldest among the three brothers. He dreams of becoming a Bai Hu official to follow his late father's footsteps; however, corruption among the higher-ups hinders him from getting his well-deserved promotion.
Jin Yi Chuan
He is a criminal who takes an imperial assassin's identity after killing him. He seems to have a serious cough but his illness is never revealed. He is in love with Zhang Yan, his doctor's daughter.
Zhou Miao Tong
She is a beautiful courtesan whom Shen Lian is in love with. She is in love with Yan Jun Bin.
Wei Zhong Xian
He is the Head Eunuch and Head of Imperial Assassins. Many of the court officials are his followers. They are known as the Eunuch's Clique. He ruled for eight years before Emperor Chong Zhen takes away his power. Due to his corruption, he has accumulated great wealth.
Zhao Jing Zhong
He is the commander of the secret police and is a power-hungry man. Although he is Wei Zhong Xian's adopted son, he wants him dead. He is the one who gave an order to the three brothers to assassinate the eunuch.
He is Jin Yi Chuan's senior. He harrasses Yi Chuan and threatens to reveal his dark secret if the latter doesn't give him money. He is a very skilled swordsman.
Wei Zhong Xian's loyal adopted daughter who always wears white. She is a skilled fighter.
Yan Jun Bin
He is the son of Yan Pie Wei, the Commander of the Imperial Court of Censors. He is Miao Tong's lover.
She is doctor's daughter and is the love interest of Yi Chuan. She is also in love with Yi Chuan.
He is the pudgy Bai Hu official who ignores Lu Jian Xing's request for a promotion.
Emperor Chong Zhen
He is a young emperor who wants to eliminate Wei and his followers.
As in most Chinese martial arts movies, the storyline is somewhat hard to follow in the beginning. For non-Chinese speakers, it may get a bit confusing because the subtitles are too fast. It was after watching it a couple of times that I got a better understanding of the movie.
The plot is pretty simple. It is about an assassination that has gone wrong. I appreciate that each brother has a side story. Their status as assassins brings fear to people who encounters them. That said, the movie hasn't failed to show us their human side, which I love. Shen Lian wants to save enough money to pay off the debts of Miao Tong, a courtesan whom he is in love with. Yi Chuan struggles to keep his dark past a secret. Lu Jian Xing dreams of getting a promotion, which is pretty tantamount to catching the wind. I love the camaraderie among the three brothers. The love stories are pretty sweet and innocent. Most Chinese viewers (count me in!) are in love with Yi Chuan's character.
I really love the fighting scenes. They are truly stunning. One of my favorite scenes is when Shen Lian runs after a wanted court official in the beginning, and we see his back view while the camera follows him from behind. It's like watching a video game and I can only imagine how good it would look in 3D. Despite the film's genre, it's not that gory. We do see splashing blood, a flying arm, and corpses here and there, but that's it. Okay, maybe it is violent but still not too violent to be given an R rating.
I do have some gripes. I don't want to give spoilers, but to make a long story short, some events are unconvincing. Sometimes, you'll find yourself saying "huh?" to yourself but since there is no one to answer you, it will leave you hanging in the air.
Overall, this film is very entertaining. I think you will appreciate the movie more if you have a little background on Chinese history, although you will still enjoy it even with zero knowledge. That said, the movie itself is an eye-candy and that alone is enough to make me want to watch it regardless of the storyline. Oh, and I have to mention this - the snowfall scene of Shen and Miao Tong is just breathtaking.
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