I went to the press screening of Brothers for youth.sg, but I don't know why I can't seem to see my article coming up. Anyway, here's a clt+c version of my write up on Brothers.
“If he were to ask you to kill yourself, would you do it?”
Set in the underworld society of Hong Kong, Brothers is not only about the relationship between two biological brothers but also about that of the people who see themselves as ‘brothers’ based on the old values of ‘righteousness and brotherhood’. Loyalties between the various characters were put to test and we see their reactions towards the types of sets up leading character Yiu (Michael Miu) puts them up.
With the actors having a median age of like 45, we can be assured of a totally gripping film in terms of acting. Heck, these guys have been acting even before I was born! And yes, they are good, very good. The varying levels and the changes in emotions of the characters were so well portrayed that one can be sucked into the whole mood of the film and feel for the younger brother (Eason Chan).
Also, with all the actors being old friends, there’s a very strong rapport among them. And that shows when watching this film. There’s the ease among the characters so smooth that it seems almost real. Even the banter between the characters sounded so natural and more like real friends rather than acting from a script.
Watch out for the exciting car chasing and shooting scenes. It reminded me of all the Andy Lau movies I watched as a kid. Even though Andy Lau is also in Brothers, he’s more of a relegated character, playing a police officer instead. But he, and his side kick (Lam Ka-Dung) also provides for some comic relief. Okay, perhaps the part when the whole theatre burst out into laughter is not supposed to be a funny part but a huge product placement, but it did lift up our spirits.
In all this is a very alpha-male kind of film, there were only like two females in the whole show. And considering that the males are all not very young, I think this would appeal more to the males than the females, unless you happen to be a female who grew up watching TVB in the 80s. Well, anyone who grew up in the 80s watching TVB serials should welcome this reunion of the greatest actors.
What is lacking in this film, however, is the lack of explanation given to the lesser character in terms of their background and their inter-relationships. Maybe it’s due to time constraints, but I feel that it is still possible to go deeper into the relationships and explore the theme of brotherhood further. Brotherhood and trust. How much trust do you have?
“Because I trust him. Because he is my brother.”
Someone, who went along with me, also did a write up on the movie. I think he did a better job than me since I focused more on the aesthetics of appealling to readers. Another clt+c version...
I view most Hong Kong triad flicks with cynicism. It's hard to blame me because of the huge wealth of films out there about triads which are basically clones of one another.
Brothers was a huge exception. Admittedly, I still went into the press screening with a tint of skepticism, because it really is pretty hard for any film to beat Infernal Affairs. This time however, I also felt a sense of excitement, given the stellar cast.
The plot of the film seems simple enough. You can find a synopsis of it here. I'm not going to bother with a write-up as they are a dime a dozen out there. Although on the surface the plot seems like another run of the mill story, what makes it stand out are the twists and ironies of the film. What appears as a struggle within a family 'business' turns out to be a tale of self-sacrifice and tragedy. Without giving anything away, the film is not named Brothers for nothing. The show may be about the triads, what is different is how the triads becomes the context instead of the focus, subverted by the true message of the film: blood is thicker than water.
The true selling point of the film is of course the hugely spectacular cast. Shining above the rest is Miu Kiu Wai, starring as Yiu, the heir apparent of Tin's (Wang Zhi Wen) family 'business'. Not only is the character of Yiu fleshed out in depth, complete with childhood 'trauma' and as a man under-siege from all sides, Miu is the driving force behind the cast, as is his character behind the story of the show. What I find outstanding from his performance was his portrayal of a man who needed to act as a cold, Machiavellian and cunning leader, while struggling with his own personal crises, his love for his brother and his guilt over the means he had to take. The face of resignation, changing into a mask of cool calculation, and into one of desperation was simply flawless. His performance comes close to that of Tony Leung in Infernal Affairs, whose classical scene witnessing the death of Anthony Wong's Superintendent Wong before his very eyes remains at the top of its class.
Andy Lau adds further glitz to a performance already made superb by Miu. Even as only a supporting role, his Chief Inspector Lau steals the show from time to time, along with Lam Ka Tung's Sun. Again, Andy's at his best as a flawed and mixed character, this time channelling more of Lee Rock than Lau Kin Ming from Infernal Affairs. It is a mixture of both: his character both driven, calculative, nearly ruthless and yet believing in his goals. Partnering with Lam Ka Tung further increases the credibility of his performance, with the two of them displaying an incredible chemistry as a good cop bad cop duo.
Eason Chan's Shun, Yiu's younger brother, seems somewhat of a weak link within an incredible cast. This is not to say that he doesn't perform well, but his deer in the headlights kind of performance just doesn't match up with the range the others exhibit. It didn't help that Shun's character doesn't get fleshed out as much as Yiu. It also doesn't make much sense that Shun appears a decade younger than Yiu as an adult, when they were just a few years apart as kids.
A tad disappointing was Felix Wong's Ghostie. He's in his element as the brooding, loyal brother, but there could have been so much more for his character, whose father was murdered quite indirectly by Yiu's father, Tin. I expected to see at least a self-struggle within Ghostie between the death of his father and his debt to Tin, but the show didn't even scratch the surface of that. Nonetheless, Wong did the best he could with a role which was somewhat underutilised.
Tong Chun Yip rounds up the cast as Kui, the antagonist to Miu's Yiu. Even though Kui is ultimately another stereotypical outsider who does whatever he needs to snatch the pie from Yiu, he absolutely knows how to play this role the way it was meant to be: mean, ruthless, and outright despicable, so much so that it felt good watching him get shot.
As for Chong Ching's Crystal Huang, the only significant female role in the movie, well, she's pretty much a non-entity. She seemed like a convenient character to have, providing opportunities for Yiu to show his private moments.
In the end, the show belongs largely to Miu, whose performance is worth the ticket price. The long-forged chemistry between Miu, Wong, Andy and Tong since their days on TV serials decades back makes the show smooth as silk. They played off one another flawlessly, lending strength for one another's performance. The show is driven by the actors, and rightly so, for the message of brotherhood seems to exist within the four actors as well as the movie itself. This film will likely go down as one of the classics of this decade.
Someone's writing seems to be much more proper than mine. Guess he'd make a better writer at some newspaper or print magazine. haha~