Monday, September 6, 2010

Gun Brothers (1968) with Ling Yun

Co-directed by actor-turned-director Wu Jiaxiang -- he did A Place To Call Home (1969), among other Li Ching classics -- and Ching Gong -- he did 1972's The 14 Amazons -- 1968's Gun Brothers is an exciting tale of resistance against the occupying Japanese forces in World War 2.

Ling Yun is the titular Gun Brother, a mysterious and unidentified rebel who attacks the Japanese forces. By day, he's a suave playboy, and by night, he is raiding the enemy -- kind of like Batman.

Master Chi (Ling Yun) seeks help from the lovely Chau Koo (Fang Ying) but her brother (Cheung Pooi Saan) doesn't take kindly to that.

Collaborator Tien Feng plays Inspector Ma, the guy who is sworn to bring in the Gun Brother.

Here's the big glaring problem with Gun Brothers: it doesn't look like the 1940s. As the film shifts from the obvious wartime scenes, to a kind of intrigue picture, you forget all about the World War 2 setting as it looks like any other 1968 film. That's not to say it's a bad film but just...sloppy and distracting.

Spoiler Alert!

It's not like I'm giving away the whole film's plot when I reveal this but it pissed me off. Okay, at the midway point, a double of Ling Yun's character is introduced into the mix.

Now, what started off as a period piece, morphed into a caper film -- with gambling -- and then morphed further into a variation on The Prince and the Pauper or something.

I'm not saying that this ruined the film for me but, rather, the success of this feature rests solely on the shoulders of Ling Yun. His charm alone is what kept this watchable as I was close to unintentional laughter when the double was introduced.

It's still suspenseful, though, and Ling Yun is really perfect in something like this. Not quite suited to wuxia, the actor was more clearly at home in modern settings and, for all intents and purposes, Gun Brothers counts as a modern film for the Shaws.

But, Gun Brothers is also a mistaken identity comedy, a romance, a gambling film, and so on. A mess of genres, it's not worth my time to recount the plot(s); if you watch this thing, do it for Ling Yun and a strong supporting cast of Shaw Brothers regulars.

I watched Gun Brothers on VCD but you can order it on DVD here.