Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro, stars of Zhang Yimou’s superlative House of Flying Daggers, reunite, joined by Jet Li (from Zhang’s Hero), in Peter Chan’s handsomely mounted historical epic. The action scenes are good (Chan began his career as an assistant director to John Woo), but they fall between many scenes of Li shedding rivers of not-so-manly, and very uncharacteristic, tears.
Still, the action star holds his own against the two seasoned thespians. His Pang Qingyun is a military commander who would become general during the period of political upheaval in 1860s Taiping — but only after he’s disgraced himself as a coward playing dead under piles of his soldiers’ bodies during a massacre. (Cue those tears.)
He’s taken in by bandits led by Er-Hu and Wen-Xiang (Lau and Kaneshiro), and the three “blood brothers” join the army, engaging in warfare (and deceit) that will test even the strongest of bonds.