It’s been almost four years since we first had Brotherhood Of Blades and now we have a prequel where the creators are taking us back to the Ming Dynasty.
Shen Lian, Chen Chang (Red Cliff, Crouching Tiger, Hiddden Dragon), is a warrior in the Imperial Guard. Faithful, loyal and able to hand out an ass-whooping at any opportunity, wielding his sword like it’s part of his body.
Lian also has a penchant for pieces of art, though not just any old art, this is art that the Dynasty would sooner didn’t exist, by the mysterious artist Bei Zhai, Mi Yang (The Witness, Tiny Times).
Lian’s art dealings land him face-to-face with Zhai and, instead of killing her as ordered, he spares her life and kills the other guard with him.
This is used as blackmail against him and so begins a convoluted story involving multiple murders, attempts on the emperor’s life and double-crossings galore. The upshot of which is that he has to flee and try to clear his name, ending up on the run with Zhai and another guard, Yi Zhang (Mountains May Depart, Run For Love).
Having not seen the original Brotherhood Of Blades I can’t comment if it links into the story, answering questions that may have been raised, or simply goes off on its own tangent.
I can tell you that Brotherhood Of Blades II The Infernal Battlefield is a long title and an overly long and complex film to try and get your head around. It feels unnecessarily convoluted.
I don’t believe that the story it’s telling is supposed to be historically accurate in anyway, so I’m unsure why the writers Shu Chen (Hu Die Gong Mu, Xiu Chun Dao), Yang Lu (Xiu Chun Dao) and Yang Yu decided to wrap story thread around story thread and leave you with little clue as to who is on which side, when.
Luckily then, director Yang Lu (My Spectacular Theatre) comes to the rescue, delivering a visual feast in the form of stunning landscapes, some well-choregraphed fight scenes, good performances and good costumes.
The fight scenes which, it has to be said, are the best moments, are a mix of wire-work and actual fighting. Brotherhood Of Blades II The Infernal Battlefield does suffer from being the type of movie whereby our heroes are able to slay a hundred people, in one go, al by themselves, as those fighting them stand around and attack one-by-one. But, the one-to-one scenes are very good, particularly the scene in which Lian is breaking into the archives.
The CGI is good as well, which is a bonus for these sorts of films. There is a dodgy moment where a horse and rider fall over a cliff, but otherwise it’s generally on the decent side.
Chen Chang does a good job as a brooding, wounded soldier trying his best to figure out what the hell is going on (much like we are as the viewer). He has an intensity about him that suits the role.
Mi Yang doesn’t have an awful lot to do, given everyone is running around trying to kill her or save her. Her appearances on screen are short and a little too ‘woe is me’ for my personal liking.
Whilst Brotherhood Of Blades II The Infernal Battlefield is a visually beautifully piece of work, with some great action sequences and some great use of weaponry, it’s ultimately let down by on over-complicated plot and some characters who are just a little too weak to be truly convincing.
The DVD comes with nothing in the way of extras, which is a shame as it would have been interesting to see how some of the fight scenes were put together.