At the end of the Ming Dynasty in 1627, Yi Chuan, Shen Lian, and Lu are three Imperial Assassins in the Jinyiwei who are just trying to do their jobs. They’re poor, hardworking soldiers who have a lot of problems of their own. They are plagued with secrets, blackmail, and misplaced love. Their main assignment is trying to find a dangerous eunuch leader named Wei. Wei threatens the stability of the kingdom, but maybe he’s exactly what China needs.
BROTHERHOOD OF BLADES is superb. It’s a martial arts action film with a touch of drama and great acting. I’ve screened a lot of Asian Cinema and this has some of the best fighting choreography I’ve ever seen. It’s quick and, even though it is rehearsed, looks so natural. Also, the camera work is done in a way that the tension seems to build the longer someone is in the scene. There are some scenes following the assassins running through the city streets and the actors are doing a little parkour. You can see the intensity in their expressions as they approach the target.
The score helps keep the movie’s pacing, but there was something a bit too familiar about it. It sounds very similar to Hans Zimmer’s score from Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY. So close that I kept listening to certain parts over and over. If you’re going to use the likeness of a score to hype up the action, there’s no better score to use. The film itself reminds me of the anime classic NINJA SCROLL with the way the assassins move. All around, it’s an excellent movie.
Chang Chen as Shen Lian
Liu Shishi as Zhou Miao Tong
Wang Qianyuan as Lu Jian Xing
Ethan Li as Jin Yi Chuan
Nie Yuan as Zhao Jing Zhong
Chin Shi-chieh as Wei Zhong Xian
Ye Qing as Zhang Yan
Zhou Yiwei as Zhou Yi Wei
Zhu Dan as Wei Ting
Zhao Lixin as Han Kuang
Ye Xiang Ming as Emperor Chongzhen
There are so many positives about this movie and the video transfer is one of them. It’s a 1080p AVC encode with a lot of clear details. There are a lot of intricate patterns in the clothing throughout the film and the assassins have stitching that make them recognizable as the secret police. The skin tones are warm and natural looking. There are no contrasting issues, but in some of the darker scenes, there’s a little bit of black crushing. It doesn’t stand out a lot, so it shouldn’t interfere with watching the movie.
I watched the film in the Chinese DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, but I also sampled the dubbed version and both are awesome. The dialogue is clear in both languages, regardless of the inflections in the actor’s voice. However, the best part of the mix is the sound effects. The sword fighting echoes with clangs and fast moving swooshes. There’s also plenty of directional effects as blades and shurikens whiz past and sometimes thud into wood in the rear channels. I’m highly impressed with the audio on this release.
The only extra on the release is the theatrical trailer.
– Original Theatrical Trailer
1 Blu-ray Disc
1080 AVC MPEG-4
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Chinese (Mandarin) DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Digital 2.0
Chinese (Mandarin) Dolby Digital 2.0
BROTHERHOOD OF BLADES is one of the best Asian period films I’ve ever seen. Like I said, the action is fast, the fighting scenes are excellent, and the story is really good. The Blu-ray release is barebones, but the transfer and audio mix is very well done. If this is the first martial arts film you’re considering checking out, this is an outstanding place to start.