Selected to close the 64th Venice Film Festival, which runs from Aug. 29 to Sept. 8, the highly anticipated gangster flick Blood Brothers (天堂口) boasts a cast comprising some of Asia's A-list stars, including Daniel Wu (吳彥祖), Shu Qi (舒淇) and Zhang Zhen (張震). Surprisingly, the blockbuster-to-be is Philippines-born, London- and New York-educated Alexi Tan's (陳奕利) directorial debut. The fashion photographer and music video director was spotted by John Woo (吳宇森), one of the film's producers.
With the blessing of Hong Kong's doyen of gangster/action cinema, Tan set out to create what he believes is a work informed by both Eastern and Western influences and a tribute to Woo's 1990 epic Bullet in the Head (喋血街頭), emulating the world-class director's signature style, - a blend of violence and romanticism.
Set in Shanghai during the 1930s, the film begins with three close friends, Fung (Daniel Wu, 吳彥祖), Kang (Liu Ye, 劉燁) and Xiaohu (Tony Yang, 楊祐寧), Kang's little brother, living in a small village on the outskirts of Shanghai.
To escape their poverty-stricken lives as fishermen, the three decide to try their luck in the big smoke and are soon drawn into the criminal underworld led by Boss Hong, a film producer and the owner of Paradise Club, Shanghai's most infamous nightclub, where danger and bloodshed are masked in seductive disguises.
A sultry object of all the men's desires, resident singer Lulu (Shu Qi) dreams of stardom but sets off an unfortunate chain of events when Boss Hong uncovers the secret affair she is conducting with his right-hand man Mark (Zhang). Meanwhile, both Hong's enemies and allies plot to seize control of the underworld group.
As the three friends rise to power, Fung is caught in a quandary, undecided on which way to go: He must choose between the world of violence and an unrequited love or return to the man he once was. The most innocent of the three, Xiaohu has his own weakness and is afraid to stand up for himself while Kang ruthlessly jostles for power.
By the end, innocence and lives are lost, but hope springs eternal.