Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Warlords

Like Red Cliff, The Warlords is a martial arts movie in a different sense of the word. While there are a couple scenes with Jet Li dishing out some wushu, the bulk of the action consists of large scale battles, sieges, and raids.

That said, there is definitely a rock hard moral core at the heart of this movie that fits with what I like about more typical martial arts movies: the sense of honor and the importance of male bonding over personal gain. What gives this movie its heart is that the brotherhood created by the characters played by the three male leads spins apart and leads to tragic consequences.

A little background on the Taiping rebellion, even a blurb from Wikipedia or the like, would be a good thing to read as the movie clearly assumes we know a bit about it. By and large though, this information would make the film richer but not knowing it does not impair your ability to follow the story.  The position of each male protagonist is a little vague at the start of the film, but this again is a minor issue.

The battle scenes in this movie are astounding. Some really shocking shots with limbs being severed, etc. It's graphic, but not gratuitous. Despite all the effects and costumes and such, the film never loses its emotional core. I was surprised how much I came to care about the brotherhood of these three men in under two hours.  That said, there were a few scenes that did drag a little, and this would be another slight flaw with the movie.

Of course, the length of the movie brings me to the major problem with the US release. From what I understand, 15 minutes has been cut from this film for the US release. why? Why? WHY??? Reviews on suggest the cut footage - as was the case in the US version of Fearless - eliminate scenes that enhance the emotional power of the story. In the case of Fearless, I luckily obtained and watched the full director's cut of the international release so I was able to see the intended version of the movie.  However, no such option is available for us Yankees with The Warlords, and I have no doubt that the film suffers from the missing footage.

I find it increasingly irritating that I have to be careful to purchase or am simply unable to purchase the unedited version of so many films from overseas.  DVDs and blu-rays can store a lot of information on them. There is not reason not to release a movie with the original cut as well as the 'for dopey Americans' cut. Let the viewer decide if it's going to kill them to spend 15 more minutes with the film!

Anyway, while the pacing is a little slow at times and some of the details of the story are sketchy given the lack of historical background and the missing footage (most likely), I enjoyed watching The Warlords, though it is not a movie I would buy for my DVD collection.

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