Bloody Brothers is a B or C level HK crime film. It was released in 1994, thus putting it on the tail end of HK's good old days of rough and tumble stunt and shoot em' up action films, a genre largely replaced by slicker action vehicles with an emphasis on technical fx rather than raw performer guts.
Shui Chi-Hung (Dicky Cheung- Deadly China Hero, Kung Fu Scholar) is a scrappy, low level, street criminal. Not a bad guy, but driven to bad things because he's a working class kid who aspires to more than a life of menial labor. He hops the train to the big city of Shanghai. During the trip he befriends a girl named Chinny and subsequently bonds with her Shanghai relatives, tuxedo shop owner Uncle (HK ‟fat‟ actor Kent Cheng), and cousins Yung and Yao.
A night on the town takes them to the cities biggest club where Shi Chi-Hung witnesses the three top gangs in attendance, The Gold Sand Gang lead by Chang (Dick Wei- Eastern Condors, Seventh Curse), the Dragon Society lead by Tu Wu, and the Axe Gang lead by Chin. Every gang leader vies for the affections of singer Miss Yue (Yvonne Yung Hung) and she becomes further fuel for Shi Chi-Hung's allure to the world of crime and power. Yung gets Shi Chi-Hung a job as a waiter, but it isn't long before Chi-Hung makes an impression on Chang and becomes a member of the Gold Sand Gang.
Because they are so standard, I'm not going to go into the details, but a gangster/Triad film novice should be able to assume what happens next: you've got your young upstart, a jealous second in command, a paranoid gang leader, a shady cop, and a bunch of underworld backstabbing. Despite the ideas of gang brotherhood and loyalty, in the end, Shi Chi-Hung's ascension into the criminal life turns on him and effects everyone around him. Leading to a shoot em' finale, of course.
You instantly know you are in the midst of a b-film when the veil of the 1940's setting (no actual time tag is made, but the cars and weapons snuggest the 40's) is unmasked by white devil foreigners with ponytails and the fact that Chi-Hung often wears stone-washed jeans. Its all pretty cliched and commercially pandering, annoyingly so with the tomboy, goofy comic relief of Yao, winningly so with the frequent gun battles and over the top action which showcases why HK action was once so great. Even though it's a minor b-film, the action entertains enough to leave a few memorable spots, even if they are memorable for their ridiculousness. It is the kind of film that wouldnt have made much of an impression on me if I saw when it first came out, but these days i find myself sentimental over HK action films with deleriously spinning stuntmen falling fifteen feet, hitting a crate, and then smashing onto an unpadded florr. *Sniff*, those were the good old days.
The DVD: Image
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. For a minute I thought I was watching an old Megastar DVD. Basically, it all comes down to the print on this one, which is very weak and makes this decade old film appear like it could have been made twenty to thirty years prior. High grain level, middling contrast depth, diluted colors, and to top it all off, some dirt and flecks on the print as well as some jumpiness.
Sound: Mono, Cantonese with optional bright yellow English subtitles. Ick. Really, a wall-to-wall muffle, very basic and poor audio, chessy syth =score, canned action fx, and weak overdubbing. The subs were good, no glaring mistakes or garbled translations.
Extras: Trailer (fullframe, but looks a sight better than the DVD print). — Limited editions include a Bloody Brothers t-shirt.
Conclusion: When it comes to HK action, I'm an easy dog to please. Sure, Bloody Brothers isnt nearly the best HK action vehicle out there, not even the third best, but give me a few gang fights in some warehouses with bullets flying, stuntmen in peril, and gratuitous bloodshed, and I'm happy. The DVD transfer and the film makes this one a mindless rental and that is as far as I'll go in recommend it.