Notable Cast: Chang Chen, Yang Mi, Zhang Yi, Olivia Wang, Tan Zhuo, Lei Jia-Yin, Xin Zhilei, Chin Shih-Chieh, Li Yuan, Mickey Yuan, Liu Feng-Chao, Wang Ren-Jun, Wu Xiao-Liang
Back in 2014, Brotherhood of Blades came out as a rather big surprise. For a modern wuxia, it had an impeccable sense of balance to its dramatic storytelling, old school Hong Kong style brotherly loyalty at its core, and a flashy sense of taking modern action and mixing it with classic wuxia elements. It was artistic enough to be effective and heartfelt, but entertaining enough to strike a chord with more mainstream audiences. It was also a surprise box office hit along with winning a few awards to add to its list of strong qualities. Fortunately, it was enough to warrant a franchise out of the film and this year we were given a prequel, Brotherhood of Blades II: The Infernal Battlefield, that tells the ‘origin’ story of Chang Chen’s character from the original film. As much as a prequel can horrifically backfire, in another round of surprises, Brotherhood of Blades II is just as impactful, fun, and effective as its predecessor. It’s inherently the same kind of film, a historically set wuxia surrounding a conspiracy with plenty of morally gray characters to fill out the tale, but it’s also one that strips the film back and refocuses itself on one key element: a love story. And it works brilliantly.
|Contemplating what character he will be in the follow up film.|
|It's a battle of blades, but its the fighters who are the sharpest of all.|
Action, which like the first film, is just as dynamic as the characters and the conspiracy plotting. The strong character development and intense building of tension and paranoia explodes in some classic wuxia sword battles that will have martial arts fans drooling. The wire work is tight, the use of settings is visual strong to balance the action, and director Lu Yang knows how to keep the emotions running as each action set piece naturally fits into the progression of the film without sacrificing the entertainment value. It has plenty of gimmicky fighters (that never feel like the gimmicks define them) and the fights fit perfectly into how the film is paced.
|Is it worth it for love at first sight?|
If anything, the strength of this prequel automatically makes this franchise one of the most impressive ones in the industry. Whether its wuxia, martial arts, action, or dramatic films, Brotherhood of Blades II: The Infernal Battlefield proves to be one of the best films of the year – no matter what genre.