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Original Title:
Hing dai

Hong Kong 2007

Crime, Action, Drama

Derek Chiu

Michael Miu Kiu-Wai
Eason Chan
Andy Lau
Felix Wong Yat-Wah
Ken Tong Chun-Yip
Crystal Huang
Wang Zhiwen
Gordon Lam Ka-Tung
Yu Rong-Guang
Teddy Lin Chun
Elaine Jin
Cheung Siu-Fai
Wong Ching
Lam Suet

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Story: The leader of a triad organisation, Tin (Wang Zhiwen), hears of a prophecy by a local monk. One of his sons is going to kill the other. Thus, Tin seperates his two sons. One of them is raised by him and the other goes to America with his mother.
20 years later, Yiu (Michael Miu Kiu Wai) has overtaken the organisation of his father, and, like his dad before him, tries hard to keep his men from getting involved into drug business or any other severely illegal business. But not everyone shares his view of a triad organisation. Kui (Ken Tong Chun-yip) keeps his hands in drug trafficking, and furthermore wants to alter the structures within the organisation. This is why he hires a killer to assassinate Yiu's father, who gets badly wounded, eventually.
At the same time Yiu's brother Shun (Eason Chan) returns from the United States and wants to help out his brother during this crisis. However, things get out of hand and messy, so that Shun has to leave the country and go to Thailand. Inspector Lau (Andy Lau) believes that this is finally his chance to bring down the organisation once and for all, since the different parties within the organisation keep fighting each other.
Can Yiu and Shun really overcome this crisis, or will one of them actually kill his brother as the prophecy has foretold?

Review: For quite a while already, Hong Kong cinema really isn't what it used to be once. However, every now and then, there are some very well done flicks that remind us of the earlier glory and quality of the former british crown colony's movies. "Protege" and Johnnie To's movies are a good example for this. All of these works have something in common, though. They all revolve around Hong Kong's favorite genre: the triad genre.
"Brothers" is a film of the same kind, and also looks quite promising at first. Unfortunately, the story eventually proves to be too uninventive. Most of what we get to see here, we have already seen somewhere else the one way or the other. The only thing that can keep up our interest are the characters. They are also the only thing that seem to stand in the film's focus, as "Brothers" definitely doesn't work as a whole. The movie's segments feel too disjointed. Some scenes may be quite appealing on their own, but they never can add up to a convincing overall picture, which just makes "Brothers" rather frustrating.

The plot of the film isn't really what you'd call original, but the implemention of a prophecy can provide some tension and thrill. The question, if and when the brothers will kill each other throughout the movie, always lingers in our mind, and we impatiently wait for the moment when the relationship between Yiu and Shun turns for the bad. Before this might happen, there is an introduction for the first half hour of the movie, in which none of the main characters is to be seen. That's unusual and already points out one of the peculiarities of the movie. Which is that director Derek Chiu ("Final Justice", "Comeuppance") takes his time with the story he wants to tell. He refrains from making his film according to certain cinematic rules, which by itself isn't a bad thing, but because of the unfocused approach he uses, his movie isn't half as meaningful or even entertaining, as it might had been his intention. The viewer misses a consistent story thread he can follow. This thread may actually be found somewhere within "Brothers", but it always goes missing in favor of the character exploration. Moreover, if you take a closer look at the story, you soon will realize that the script really would have needed a lot more elaboration.

The true strength of the film is without a doubt the cast, which consists of the "Four Tigers". This includes Michael Miu, Andy Lau, Felix Wong and Kent Tong, who where THE TVB-Stars 20 years ago - and thus got that name. Well, to be exactly they were also called "Five Tigers" a little bit later on, when Tony Leung Chiu-Wai joined them. Sadly, Tony Leung couldn't participate in this movie, because of his tight schedule.
Michial Miu gives the best performance of them all in his role as a hard-boiled, but righteousness triad boss with some sort of personal codex and honor. But even though we might think of him as one of the good guys among the "villians", this belief is put to test later on. His person becomes somewhat shady and unfathomable. He has the necessary power to force his will among others and the intelligence to lead a triad organisation. And he proves it on several occasions. His calculating behavior becomes really terrifying at times, so that we actually are expecting anything from him. Even that he could have framed his own brother and wants to get rid of him. Nonetheless, his brother actually proves to be his only weak point, because when it comes to him, he shows that he actually has a heart.

Some of the interlaced entanglements among the different individuals remain questionable and unelaborated, though. Crystal Huang's role as Yiu's lover could have had potential for a lot more. Furthermore, her relationship with Yiu even feels rather cold. Her former relationship to one of the policeman also remains a closed book. Was she supposed to be a woman between the fronts? If that is the case, the director surely didn't succeed, especially since she had already chosen one side.
Felix Wong plays loyal Ghostie in a very reserved way, while Eason Chan ("Love Battlefield") plays Shun, a young, ambitiouness hothead, who at first doesn't want anything to do with the business of his father's organisation, but eventually decides to help out his brother. He most likely is what you can call a character to relate to, especially towards the end. Yet, in fact, this is where the movie struggles the most. We can relate to some of the characters some of the time, but we never can totally sympathize with one of them all the way through.
Andy Lau gives just a mediocre performance. He simply takes on a supporting role. However, he looks quite relaxed in his role. Only the incredibly obvious product placement for the watch brand CYMA, for whom Lau is almost a spokesman in Hong Kong, is pretty damn annoying.

Qualitywise Derek Chiu can enhance his movie with some nice directing every now and then. Oftentimes, he puts things in front of the camera or focuses on objects, the way we are used to see it from art house movies. Maybe he wants to meet with his own standard of what he thinks to be profound art? Interestingly, these scenes fit into the film quite well. Especially well done are the scenes in Thailand, where we not only get to see a chase through a market full of diverse goods, consisting of many winding streets and lanes, but also a nice shoot-out in front of an appealing set.
In the end "Brother" can't deliver anything new. In its core the story is rather trite and well-known, and to make things worse it's not told in a focused manner. Somehow, everything just feels too hackneyed and even unmotivatedly brought onto screen. Granted, the movie has some upsides, but there are at least as many downsides. The viewer's interest can be won over by the film, but in the end there is no reward for hanging on. All in all, this is just average stuff, and because I don't want to recommend this movie only for the simple fact that this might be more than what we can expect from HK cinema these days, I will only write down that "Brothers" is a film fans of the genre might want to check out.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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