The Warlords - 9/10.
I've been waiting quite a while to see this one (although this film was only released in theaters across Asia last December) but it was definitely worth the wait and lived up to expectations (it won Best Film in this year's Hong Kong Film Awards). It's a war/drama film with some martial arts sprinkled in, as you'd expect when there's Jet Li cast into the mix but unlike any Jet Li film, this one is a predominantly morbid tale where Jet Li plays a more flawed character than he's usually portrayed.
The movie is set back during China's Taiping Rebellion (circa 1850-1860's), a time that brought poverty, starvation, and war that led to a massive casualty count in China. Jet Li plays an army general who faked his death from the total slaughter of his army in battle and finds himself in a mountain village facing the signs of the times. He befriends two brothers, who lead a band of village bandits on a Robin Hood mission to steal much needed food and supplies from the military. In order to secure peace and prosperity for the village, Jet Li persuades them to join his own army for the sake of the village. A brotherhood is formed between the 3 main characters but it becomes greatly tested much later on, especially when Jet Li becomes much too ambitious and drunk with arrogance that he develops a kind of Daniel Plainview/MacBeth type character.
I'd knock it down a peg because 1) there are a few points in the film that uses a ripoff of the Gladiator theme and 2) it could've used the backdrop of the Taiping Rebellion to add even greater context but the setting becomes more or less background noise unfortunately. Other than that, the story and the characters are compelling. Andy Lau (from Infernal Affairs and House of Flying Daggers) does an outstanding job as usual and the role for Takeshi Kaneshiro (also cast from House of Flying Daggers) was just right. Also, the fight scenes are more than decent. Highly recommended.
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