The Warlords
Just your average morning horseback ride with a few friends.

Theatrical Release Date: 04/16/2010 (USA), 12/12/2007 (China)
Director: Peter Ho-Sun Chan
Cast: Jet Li, Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Xu Jinglei

China. A country whose history is rife with heroic and epic battles that shaped the nation. Thankfully for the film world, there are a seemingly limitless number of those battles with which to craft a story from and the latest is director Peter Ho-Sun Chan’s “The Warlords”.

Based upon the story of General Pang’s army and his rise to prominence during the Taiping Rebellion in the 1860s, the film sticks to the formulaic pattern of warriors whose bond is thicker than blood who eventually betray each other, either over power or women. Jet Li plays a former soldier who takes up with two bandits (Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro). The trio then take it upon themselves to rid the nation of the Taiping troops in order to bring peace to the land before it destroys all they hold dear.

As far as performances go, Kaneshiro and Lau far outshine Li. While Jet does fine in action scenes and portraying cold characters, his softer side still comes off very forced and anytime he wept, I laughed … pretty sure that’s not supposed to be my reaction. Lau did a nice job of being the stoic noble thief, concerned with protecting his people and doing whatever was necessary to do so. Kaneshiro once again provides a character perhaps meant to be the audience’s representation in the film – whereas Li and Lau find themselves at odds with each other, it’s Kaneshiro who tries to hold it all together and uphold the ideals they’re supposed to be fighting for.

The production design was appropriate for the film. Again, it all seems to fit with every other film of its ilk and there didn’t seem to be any skimping on building sets or getting the costumes or the weapons. It’s sort of like watching U.S. Civil War films, there must be some Props ‘R Us somewhere that has all these things on hand or can fashion specific items still accurate to the period.

It’s not so much that I didn’t like “The Warlords” but I’ve seen it done many times over and if this were some sort of cinematic flash cards, I’d confuse this with half a dozen other films and not lose any sleep over it. A 2.5 out of 5, I could have used more action as I really only enjoyed Jet Li’s first and last fights, with the space in between filled with army battles that were lost amidst the size of the warring parties or in romantic and political subtext that never piqued my full attention. If you need a good feudal China warlord picture, just get a copy of John Woo’sRed Cliff” (also starring Kaneshiro) or if it has to have Jet Li, rewatch “Hero”.