Brothers


Reviewed by: sukting

November 04, 2007

Rating: two-point-five

How long
105 min

Foreword
This movie reunited 4 of the famed 5 TVB tigers after their 1991 movie, ‘The Tigers’. How do they fare after they have not acted together for so long?

Story

It starts with a scene of Kuai having a wound at the neck and a man lying on the ground in a pool of blood. There is another man standing with a gun in his hand. Who are they?

Gau kills Ghost’s father out of anger as he is involved in drug trafficking. Tien isn’t happy that he metes out the rule without consulting him. To appease his anger, Gau chops off a finger. In the meantime, Yiu and Shun drive their father’s car without his knowledge. Yiu is terrified when Shun steps on the accelerator to cause him to knock down a man. Shun calms him down and calls the police. Tien adopts Ghost.

Tien consults a Taoist. He comes out with the words ‘the Xuan Wu duel’. Li Shi Min killed his elder brother, Jian Cheng to ascend the throne. That implies both brothers will hurt each other if they are together. (I am amused by this statement – Kiu Wai acted in ‘The Foundation’ so is the director intending to repeat this here?)

The Taoist also claims that Tien has 20 years of fortune and he should retire after that. Tien decides to send Shun overseas to study despite Mrs Tam’s pleas to make him stay till 18 years old. Before he leaves, they take a family photo. Seeing that Ghost is lonely, Tien drags him in with them.

20 years later, Yiu takes over the family business. The term "business" has connotations of the triads in the Hong Kong context. Yiu, however, is the chief with a conscience. Following in his father's footsteps, he does not deal with drug peddling and all his businesses are legal without a doubt. That is why the cops can’t arrest him. What lies in the grey area is the way he manages his business. Yiu still gets Ghost to punish his men and also by reporting them to the police.

He now divides the profits among the rest. Kui is unhappy that he and Gau only obtain a share although both of them are shareholders. Yiu reminds that they should not get involved in drug peddling. Jau laughs – he is only managing normal flour business.

Gau then comments that Tien must have done something wrong to cause Mrs Tam to become senile. Yiu is furious – he goes up to him with a bottle of red wine. No – not to splash at his face but to fill up his glass to the brim. He orders him to drink it and he will take that he only blurts the words because he is drunk.

Tien and Mrs Tam are at the beach. He shows his soft side by blocking the sun rays for her. Suddenly, he is stabbed at the back and is sent to hospital. Yiu is anxious after getting the news. He forgets his briefcase and tells Ghost to get it for him. Kuai stops him right at the entrance with Xin as he gets the news that there are drugs in his car. Yiu becomes impatient and warns Kuai that he might lose his job if he doesn’t get to see Tien on the same day.

Sure enough, Xin finds 2 packets in the car boot and Yiu is brought back for questioning. His lawyer, Qing can’t bail him although it is obvious that he is framed. Kuai even asks her if she has seen a cat letting a mouse go after catching it! Gau wants to take over the company as revenge on his lost finger and business loss. He even thinks of getting his men to kill Tien in the hospital. Kui tells Gau that he should not take out on Tien but on Yiu instead since he is in charge. Gau realises that Kui is right.

Yiu asks Ghost what takes him so long to get his briefcase. He replies that Kui tries to buy him over but it doesn’t work as he is loyal to the Tams. (This is so funny – Yiu wants him to take off his shades when he talks to him and this is the ONLY scene that allows us to see his face.)

Qing talks to Officer Cheung over the matter. Cheung doesn’t understand why she wants to work for the underworld boss but he must stick to the rules. Is she Yiu’s girlfriend to be so concerned over him? Seeing them so intimate, Kuai asks Cheung over their relationship. Cheung replies that both of them take law at Beijing University. He wants Kuai to check on Yiu’s relationship with Qing but Kuai passes the job to Xin.

Qing wants to bail Yiu out by putting that he has brain cancer as the reason. Kuai and Xin burst out laughing upon hearing this. Kuai even jokingly says that he believes it. Xin informs Kuai that they can’t charge Yiu due to lack of evidence. Shun is a white piece of paper but Kuai replies that all underworld start with a clean record. Kuai is having his meal and Xin demands him to pay back his debt.

Kuai throws out his CYMA watch jokingly. To his dismay, Xin takes it but returns meekly. Xin then reveals Cheung and Qing are ex-lovers for 5 years. Kuai scolds him – he wants info on Yiu and Qing but not their superior! However, he doesn’t mind knowing more so both guys pull down the blinds to gossip in the office! (This is the most hilarious scene in the movie.)

Yiu tells Ghost to inform Shun. Shun is concerned upon knowing what happens at home. Yiu and Shun give each other a warm hug in the hospital. Tien wants Shun to settle down – even marrying a foreigner is fine with him. Shun then asks jokingly if he can marry a black woman. Tien is serious when talking to Yiu – it looks like his time is up so Yiu should not see Shun often since the Taoist is so right in his prediction.

Yiu still thinks that the decision still lies with humans. He returns home to play a basketball game with Shun. Shun is in the IT business and Tien forbids him to return. Yiu envies him to be able to job-hop. For him, he can only change to another gang. He suddenly has a splitting headache and thanks his doctor for the report. The doctor has sad news for him and he looks moody after that.

It is Tien’s funeral. Kuai brings his men to search for drugs with a warrant. Yiu suppresses his anger to allow it even though he knows that it is Gau’s doing. Shun is displeased – are they implying that he should crave ‘evil’ on their heads since they belong to the gang? Can’t they let Tien leave in peace? Yiu has to calm him down. Yiu offers incense to his father.

Just then, he overhears Gau’s answer to a phone call that he is happy over what is going on. A cop tries to search the coffin. Yiu gets so mad that he slams the cover down to hurt his hand to teach him a lesson. (This scene definitely ejects me from my seat!)

Yiu tells Shun it is the Yims’ doing. Shun asks Yiu if he does illegal deals – such as killings. Yiu replies that a boss doesn’t require to carry out killings himself. Shun asks why he doesn’t report Tien’s murder to the police. Yiu stares at him with disbelief…but he allows him to go to the cops. Qing sleeps with Yiu – does he really want Shun to help him? He smiles and knows Shun’s impulsive and trusting nature makes him an unsuitable candidate for the successor position.

Shun realises to his horror - how naïve he is. Kuai accuses him of making use of the police to eliminate the enemies. What ground does he have to complain since he is a gang member? He storms out as he tries in vain to convince Xin and Kuai that he is clean. (This is the only other scene besides the funeral scene that justifies the ticket price.)

Yiu gives Jau some money for retirement in Holland. Jau encourages him to let Shun help him since he shines during Tien’s funeral. Yiu brings Shun to visit the man whom they have knocked down in the past. He has lost a leg. Shun sits on a chair – Yiu tells him that only the Tams can sit on it.

Ghost sends Shun to visit Mrs Tam. Shun asks if he has any disagreement with Yiu. He replies sometimes but he obeys him since he is in charge. He notices that the brothers are so different from young – to switch their personalities totally. Mrs Tam is sure senile to mistaken Shun as Tien and Yiu as Shun. She even tells ‘Shun’ to help Yiu as he works too hard.

Jau is displeased that Yiu only gives him $20,000 so he defects to Gau. Shun decides to help Yiu since he is proficient in English and IT. Yiu laughs – he has drunk 3 glasses of wine but Shun has not even finished a glass. How can he help him? Yiu suddenly becomes fierce – what should he do if someone finds drugs in his car and points a gun at his head? Shun is scared over his change but is relieved he is only joking. Yiu is too drunk to drive so Shun takes over.

Yiu claims to arrange to meet someone and shows the directions. Suddenly, Jau pushes Gau out of the road and causes Shun to knock him down. Shun gets terrified and wants to surrender to the police. Yiu forbids that and gets Qing to accompany him to hide in Thailand. Kui sobs at the mortuary. Yiu pretends not to know anything when Kuai questions him. He says that he tries to get Shun to give in to the police but he refuses. He doesn’t know where he is now.

Kuai wants Yiu to return to the police station with him. He agrees to go after his check-up. Yiu thanks Jau for his help and will credit the money into his account through a call in the café. Ghost demands to know what is going on. Can Yiu tell him before he acts? Kui comes and demands to know Shun’s whereabouts. Since their fathers are dead, he wants to take over the company. Kuai and Xin prevent them from fighting. Yiu reveals that he is in Thailand now.

(From here onwards, the plot goes confusing and tiresome to lose all sense of direction. It focuses too much on whether the brothers should trust each other.)

Shun knows that something is wrong – is Yiu doing this to him deliberately? Qing has no answer for this but tells him that Yiu will not sleep with other women except her because he trusts no one. Shun kills a hitman after the man kills a pregnant woman. He is nearly killed by Kuai’s men but Ghost rescues him. Yiu arrives and admits that he is using him as a bait to lure Kui to Thailand so that they can settle their revenge.

If Shun wants to stop this by calling the cops to investigate, he should shoot him. (How contradictory – I thought Yiu said that bosses should not do the dirty job themselves?!) Shun fires a shot angrily on the ground. Kui is now in Thailand too. Ghost and Shun are in a tuk-tuk car. Kui calls Shun to lure him out. Ghost hears the ‘Shanghai Beach’ song to know where he is. (They are reviving ‘The bund’ since all are from the underworld.)

(The following makes me shake my head – where did all the subordinates go in hiding to leave their bosses to do all the dirty work by themselves personally?)

Yiu is about to be with them when he suddenly suffers from headaches. Shun flares up at him for replying his call late. Qing has to give him his medicine in tears to realise how sick he is. The final showdown is at a Thai temple. Ghost is taken as a hostage and Shun is displeased when Yiu steps on him to disallow him to save Ghost. Ghost shoots Kui before he dies. Kui’s man kills him as he wants to take over his position.

Yiu locks Shun up as he doesn’t want him to go after Kui’s men to seek revenge. He wants Qing to bring Shun to the U.S. and be back 6 months later after everything dies down. Seeing her in tears, he consoles her. He wants Shun to take over the company as a clean man.

Shun sees his photo as the headline news in the Thailand papers. He returns to Hong Kong without telling Qing. Qing begs Cheung not to allow the brothers to meet. Shun reaches the port – to be arrested by Xin and Kuai. They have been there for a few days. Kuai tries to turn the two brothers against each other, saying that Yiu has betrayed him. Shun still believes that Yiu will not harm him.

Yiu wants to meet Kuai for Shun’s release. Kuai reports this to Cheung. Although Cheung says nothing, Qing detects that something is happening. Shun requests Xin to allow him to go to the toilet but he keeps hitting him on the head. Enraged, he handcuffs him and runs away. (Xin really deserves such treatment for keep hitting his head at the police station and here. Shun must have had enough of this.)

Yiu requests Kuai to let Shun go since he is responsible for everything. He has arranged the killings to be done in Thailand to make the job easier. Shun overhears this and is in tears, wanting to leave with Yiu. He doesn’t want Yiu to end up in jail. Yiu is dying as cancer strikes him again to have a massive nose bleed. He tries to stop Shun from shooting Kuai to get shot. It is another day and the chair is among other old furniture for sale. The price drops from $380 to $280. This depicts the end of the gang.

(How can this be the ending?! If I were Yiu, I would just send Shun to the U.S. to lure Kui to Thailand. Ghost could have killed him for Yiu to save all this trouble. OR since it is so easy to kill Gau, I don’t’ see how tough it can be to kill Kui too.)

Introduction on characters

1. Tam Shun Tien – Wong Chi Mun
He is the father of the brothers. Highly authoritative to rule the gang with an iron hand, he makes sure that all members behave discreetly. However, he doesn’t expect misfortune to fall upon his sons although part of the prophecy comes true. This actor is splendid! Although his scenes are few, he manages to leave a deep impression in my mind.

2. Tam Song Yiu – Miu Kiu Wai
Yiu is the heir to the triad empire. He has to pit with eager enemies – the Yims who scheme to take over his position. He is brought up to be cold and ruthless but his heart is warm towards his family and girlfriend.

Miu’s performance is nothing short of enigmatic and truly lives up to his status as a veteran actor. He has this brooding quality that makes the role seem tailored for him. It is obvious that he leads. He treads a fine line as the ambivalent person to make you guess his moves. It is the familiar "you-kill-my-father-I-kill-yours" storyline but there is something so complicated in this simple storyline that bewitches the audience. Personally, I attribute it to the layered acting of Miu who plays the complex character. He also preserves his looks well.

3. Tam Song Shun – Chan Yik Shun
Shun is an IT graduate but it seems that knowledge doesn’t help him to be street smart. He can be so naïve, innocent and reckless. No wonder all refer him to a piece of white paper. It is said that the role should have gone to Chiu Wai but Chan proves his worth as an outstanding actor in addition to his singing career.

The relationship between the two is dynamic. There is awesome stage chemistry and Chan’s transformation is great. The turn of events changed him to be untrusting and bitter towards everyone.

4. Ghost – Wong Yat Wah
He is the same loyal person as the foster son of the family. There is no breakthrough for Yat Wah. His acting is only passable as his role is very minor. He has very big eye bags – no wonder he has to hide his face behind the shades.

5. Yim Kok Kui – Tong Chun Yip
He is Gau’s son. Chun Yip is no longer the young man that we know. He has grown to become an uncle with his shaven head and beefy figure. He doesn’t have much to show too with limited exposure.

6. Yim Gau – Fong Ping
He bears a grudge towards Tien for causing him to lose a finger. He is very revengeful, thirsty for his blood. He isn’t afraid of offending Yiu openly with his sarcastic remarks.

7. Officer Zhang – Yu Rong Guang
He is the superintendent – the cops’ immediate boss. Although he has broken off with Qing, he is still concerned over her well-being.

8. Lau Chi Kuai – Lau Tak Wah
He is a senior inspector on tail of the brothers. He loves food and we often see him eating. Tak Wah steals the show as the playful and humourous cop. It is a refreshing change.

9. Xin – Lam Kah Dong
He is a police sergeant who loves to gossip. Sure funny indeed to provide comic relief.

10. Chuang Qing – Huang Yi
She is Yiu’s lawyer and also girlfriend. She tries to clear Yiu’s name involving illegal business.

11. Uncle Jau – Wong Ching
He is Tien’s right hand man. He helps the brothers to seek their revenge.

12. Mrs Tam – Kam Yin Ling
She is the brothers’ mother. Probably the separating of the brothers is too big a blow for her to cause her to become senile. It is too late for Tien to shower her all his attention after that.

Most favourite character
Yiu, he does everything for Shun. But his plans spin my head in circles. Does he enjoy making his poor younger brother suffer so much?!

Most hated character
Gau, he is ruthless to kill Ghost’s father and doesn’t let Tien off even after his death.

Song
Yik Shun had sung with many other male co-stars/singers but this was the first time he sang this duet with Tak Wah. He also wrote the music – the title was the same as the movie title. The lyrics were by Tak Wah. Unlike other singers who recorded their parts separately, both guys recorded it together in the studio.

Interesting scenes

The funeral scene – I never know that a hand and a coffin can create a story. Kiu Wai shows Yiu’s respect towards Tien and also displeasure towards the cop who touches Tien’s coffin.

The café scene – it is quiet but we can sense a storm brewing soon.

The exchanges between the cops – so funny that they reduce the tension between the triads.

Interesting facts

The movie was shot in Beijing, Hong Kong and Thailand for 9 months. Many had mistaken it to be China author, Yu Hua’s novel adaptation. Tak Wah hoped that all would not just focus their attention on the 4 tigers…but how can this be possible? Many asked why Chiu Wai wasn’t involved in it.

He replied that he was only aware that his other ‘brothers’ were involved in this project and this didn’t really matter. He also reminded the reporters to include Yik Shun's name and not Chiu Wai's in their reports.

This was Yik Shun's first time getting involved in a gangster movie. He was thrilled to be with a cast of actors whom he admired from young. All asked each other on their performance after shooting each important scene.

What was the director's impression of the four? Kiu Wai often pretended to place a big brother pose as all called him '3rd elder brother'. He looked arrogant but he was willing to listen to advices. Yat Wah looked quiet but he was the most talkative. Tak Wah was considerate and caring. Chun Yip cared for his family and seldom take assignments to be with his children.

Although it was said to be the collaboration of the 4 tigers, the limelight was on Kiu Wai as the main lead. However, the other three did not mind and the director could sense the strong bond between them. The movie was on the complicated feelings between the characters but they were actually making use of this movie to keep in contact with each other.

Kiu Wai, Yat Wah and Chun Yip love to eat. So the whole cast never grew hungry as Tak Wah also took good care of all of them. Whenever the four meet up, they love to coax Tak Wah to get married soon but he is a workaholic. Chun Yip is a businessman while Kiu Wai is their source to contact them.

Tak Wah did the calligraphy for the movie. To show the tension and loyalty between the two brothers, Tak Wah wrote the word 'di' - younger brother as a reflection.

Tak Wah acted as a cop who loved food. We kept seeing him with lunchboxes or lollipops in the movie. Wasn’t he afraid of gaining weight? He replied that he could take food containing flour before 7pm but he wanted food containing meat after 7pm to maintain his figure.

Kar Dong acted as a nosy cop. Was he the same person in real life? He admitted that he was and there was nothing wrong with the scene where both cops shared secrets in the office. Who has no curiosity? When shooting with the 4 tigers, he thought of them as his elder brothers.

Tak Wah added the café scene after completing the script. He always wanted a quiet scene like this but it had to be natural. The one at the funeral was a sharp contrast to this one. He did not think of the past. Many ‘cops’ were their ex-TVB colleagues. They went to visit the 4 tigers. They did not receive a cent when volunteered to act as the cops.

When he mentioned to Cheung Siu Fai about a man being knocked down at the beginning, he agreed to take up the role. Many did not even bother to know what they were going to do so they trusted him. Tak Wah knew Kiu Wai best – he didn’t change much and he is as handsome as before. Yat Wah and Chun Yip did not change their character much but their thinking towards life was different now.

Why must Yiu’s ending be so tragic? He thought this was close to reality. Just like many people who thought they were smart. His cop role was biased to think that Shun was as bad as the rest. The other tigers gave Kiu Wai the task of asking Chiu Wai to join them in this movie. But Chiu Wai was too busy.

This was the first time Kiu Wai worked with Yi. He was afraid that both lack chemistry as they do not know each other well. But surprisingly, she did well and don’t they look like a matching couple?

It was coincidental to meet another ‘gangster’ actor on the same day. After watching the movie, I went to Cheng Ekin (as you all know, he was the lead for ‘Young and Dangerous)’s promotion of his new drama ‘Master Fok’ at the same venue. I got his autographed poster and got to shake his hand too. It was definitely a memorable 'gangster' day for me.

Conclusion

Brothers has an astounding cast and storyline that leaves the audience in anticipation of the next scene. Watching Brothers brings about a lot of contradictory feelings. There are just so many feelings intertwined in the course of watching it. The professionalism the tigers learned in their TVB days stand them in good stead and they carry themselves with grace. I am here to watch the low-profile 3 tigers.

If you are a fan of the 5 tigers, not only will you relish every moment, you will find yourself completely enthralled into the story of how two brothers are forced to live apart due to a prophecy of how growing up together would bode ill for both of them. Given the cast’s caliber, this could be a highly entertaining movie but the director did not give them adequate justice. There is no solid storyline to give the intended impact. The plot starts slow and there is no kick following it.

We have seen the man-hit-car scene in ‘Internal Affairs2’. The soapy arrangement of cancer suffering and sibling rivalry/reconciliation reminds me of Korean dramas. The car chasing part in Thailand is boring as compared to a famous credit card commercial that we all know. I am spoiled by better triad flicks to expect a lot more from this movie.

The part where all question on Yiu’s motives towards Shun can be more engaging. Chiu Wai’s absence is a smart move as the script is a tired retread of other gangster movies. The director has not thought of a good storyline to shoot this movie in a better way. It is a pity to end it in this way.

Sukting’s ratings :

On acting : ***1/2 (Scale of 5)
On story : **1/2 (Scale of 5)
On song : *** (Scale of 5)



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