The Warlords

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This article is about the 2007 film. For the similarly-titled episode of Doctor Who, see The Crusade.
The Warlords
Warlords 2007 poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Traditional 投名狀
Simplified 投名状
Mandarin Tóu Míng Zhuàng
Cantonese Tau4 Ming4 Zong6
Directed by Peter Chan
Produced by Peter Chan
Andre Morgan
Written by Xu Lan
Chun Tin-nam
Aubery Lam
Huang Jianxin
Jojo Hui
He Jiping
Guo Junli
James Yuen
Starring Jet Li
Andy Lau
Takeshi Kaneshiro
Xu Jinglei
Music by Chan Kwong-wing
Peter Kam
Chatchai Pongprapaphan
Leon Ko
Cinematography Arthur Wong
Edited by Wenders Li
Distributed by Media Asia Distribution
ARM Distribution
Release dates
  • 12 December 2007 (2007-12-12) (China)
  • 13 December 2007 (2007-12-13) (Hong Kong)
Running time
127 minutes
Country Hong Kong
Language Mandarin
Budget US$40,000,000
Box office HK$27,495,779 (Hong Kong)

The Warlords (Chinese: 投名狀), previously known as The Blood Brothers, is a 2007 epic war film directed by Peter Chan and starring Jet Li, Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Xu Jinglei. The film was released on December 13, 2007 simultaneously in most of Asia, except Japan.[1] The film is set in the 1860s, during the Taiping Rebellion in the late Qing Dynasty in China and centers on the sworn brotherhood of three men.


The film is set in China in the 1860s, during the Taiping Rebellion. It is based on the assassination of Ma Xinyi in 1870.

The story begins with a battle between the Qing and the Taiping, where all of the Qing soldiers are killed except their general, Qingyun. The Qing side was defeated because another Qing general named General Ho withheld reinforcements. Qingyun encounters a girl named Liansheng who nurses him back to health. Once he regains his strength, he comes upon a bandit village which is led by Liansheng's husband Erhu, and another man named Wuyang. Qingyun helps the bandits as they attack a Taiping convoy and seize the supplies. However, a Qing army attacks the village shortly afterward, and seizes those supplies in turn.

The bandit village is poor and starving. Qingyun convinces them to form an army and fight for the Qing so they can feed their families. Erhu and Wuyang do not trust Qingyun, and only agree after the three brothers make a Blood Vow, in which they affirm their fraternity under pain of death. Qingyun goes back to the Qing lords and receives commands on where to attack. In the first battle Qingyun's army is outnumbered but he wins. Soon he has won a series of victories. He becomes ambitious and reveals his plan to quickly take Suzhou and Nanjing, the power bases of the Taiping rebels.

Fearing Qingyun's growing power and influence, the Qing lords decide to deny Qingyun reinforcements and provisions; without their support, Qingyun's attack on Suzhou devolves into a year-long siege, with both sides suffering from starvation. Desperate, Qingyun negotiates with General Ho, offering him half of the spoils of the upcoming attack on Nanking in return for basic supplies.

Erhu goes on his own mission to assassinate the Taiping general in Suzhou, by sneaking into the city as an opium dealer. The Taiping general sees through the disguise and captures him. It is revealed that the Taiping general wishes to surrender in order to save the starving citizens, but he is forbidden by orders. To get around this, he challenges Erhu to a duel and lets himself be killed. As he is dying, he requests that the soldiers and citizens be spared, and Erhu agrees.

After Suzhou surrenders, Qingyun refuses to spare the enemy soldiers because he does not have a way to feed them. He does not trust them to be conscripts, and if they are released, they will proceed to join another Taiping regiment. He orders that they be massacred. Erhu screams at Qingyun to stop. Qingyun responds by having Erhu put in chains. Erhu considers desertion, but Qingyun convinces him that the upcoming attack on Nanjing will liberate millions of innocent citizens from Taiping rule.

Now that Suzhou is taken, Qingyun's army proceeds to attack Nanjing, and captures it. For his grand success, the Empress appoints Qingyun as governor of Nanjing. As Qingyun waits for his inauguration, he tries to make friends with the Qing lords. Erhu, however, has been jaded by the war, and does improper things such as giving the soldiers gold without permission. Qingyun, attempting to earn the respect of the Qing lords, arranges Erhu's assassination. He has two false messages brought to Erhu. One says that Qingyun is out of Nanjing on business, and will be passing through some village. The other says that General Ho wants to assassinate Qingyun by ambushing him in that village. Seeing this, Erhu races out to that village to save Qingyun, where he is killed by Qingyun's men. With his dying breath, Erhu curses General Ho, not realizing what really happened.

Wuyang discovers Qingyun's affair with Liansheng, and finds clues about Qingyun's plans to assassinate Erhu. Incorrectly concluding that the former is the motivation for the latter, Wuyang murders Liansheng. Since Qingyun betrayed the blood vow, Wuyang plans to kill him.

The inauguration ceremony arrives. Wuyang jumps out and attacks Qingyun, but is unable to defeat him in hand to hand combat. It is then revealed, through a flashback, that the Empress promoted Qingyun in order to isolate him from his peers, and set him up for assassination. The Empress would never allow an outsider to hold such an important position as the governorship of Nanjing. At this point, the Empress's assassin appears behind Qingyun and shoots him in the back. This allows Wuyang to get the upper hand and kill Qingyun. Wuyang then narrates that "Dying is easy. Living is harder".



From left, director Peter Chan and stars Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau, and Jet Li at the premiere of The Warlords at SF World Cinema, CentralWorld, Bangkok.

The film was originally titled The Blood Brothers (simplified Chinese: 刺马; traditional Chinese: 刺馬). Director Peter Chan said it was influenced by the late Chang Cheh's 1973 film The Blood Brothers, which is itself based on a famous high profile assassination of a local governor in 1870, but denied that it is a remake. He also decided to change the title to The Warlords in order to avoid confusion.[1] (Note that there is another Chinese film with the English title Blood Brothers released in mid-2007.)

When asked why he chose to move away from his familiar turf of romance films, Chan said that The Warlords is actually not a martial arts film at its heart, though it contains elements of the martial arts. He added that he had made a wish to make a film depicting men's affections after watching John Woo's 1986 film A Better Tomorrow over twenty years ago, and has now finally gotten the chance.[2] His goal is thus to "lead [his] audience to reclaim [the same kind of passion]" as in A Better Tomorrow, which he said is lacking in recent films.[3]

Shooting began in early December 2006 in Beijing. Many outdoor scenes were shot in Beijing, Shanghai and the town of Hengdian in Zhejiang province.[4]

The film ran into copyright troubles on 19 March 2007 when Chinese artist Wang Kewei filed a lawsuit against the film company for using his work in the promotional artworks without his consent. Wang claimed that in a short promotional video shown during a press conference held on 11 December 2006 in Beijing, the film company used ten pieces of his work with minor alterations. The film company has not given an official response.[5]

Production of The Warlords officially wrapped up on 28 March 2007.[6] Post-production work was divided among Hong Kong, Los Angeles and Bangkok.[1]

Jet Li received US$15 million, while Andy Lau received US$6 million and Takeshi Kaneshiro received US$2 million for the film. The film had a budget of US$40 million. The producers explained the huge salary for Jet Li (over a third of the film's budget) by saying Jet Li's participation ensures an international distribution for the film.


In IMDB the film has received a rather positive review of 70% by over 17 000 film critics and viewers.[7]

The film won many prizes in the Chinese, Hong Kong, Asian and international film festivals in 2008-2009.[8][9]

In Rotten Tomatoes the film has an aggregated score of 65% based on 51 reviews.[10]

Perry Lam of Muse has also given the film a generally positive review, praising it for taking 'a clear-eyed but sympathetic look at its flawed heroes'.[11]

Awards and nominations[edit]

27th Hong Kong Film Awards[edit]

  • Won: Best Film
  • Won: Best Director (Peter Chan)
  • Won: Best Actor (Jet Li)
  • Won: Best Cinematography (Arthur Wong)
  • Won: Best Art Direction (Yee Chung-Man, Yi Zheng-Zhou, Pater Wong)
  • Won: Best Costume and Makeup Design (Yee Chung-Man, Jessie Dai, Lee Pik-Kwan)
  • Won: Best Sound Design (Sunit Asvinikul, Nakorn Kositpaisal)
  • Won: Best Visual Effects (Ng Yuen-Fai)
  • Nominated: Best Actor (Andy Lau)
  • Nominated: Best Original Film Score (Chan Kwong-Wing, Peter Kam, Chatchai Pongprapaphan, Leon Ko)
  • Nominated: Best Film Editing (Wenders Li)
  • Nominated: Best Action Choreography (Ching Siu-Tung)

45th Golden Horse Awards[edit]

  • Won: Best Film
  • Won: Best Director (Peter Chan)
  • Won: Best Visual Effects (Eddy Wong, Victor Wong, Ken Law)
  • Won: Best 800 Bandits (Bandit 1, Bandit 2, etc.)
  • Nominated: Best Actor (Jet Li)
  • Nominated: Best Original Screenplay (Xu Lan, Chun Tin Nam, Aubrey Lam, Huang Jian-Xin, Jojo Hui, He Ji Ping, Guo Jun Li, James Yuen)
  • Nominated: Best Cinematography (Arthur Wong)
  • Nominated: Best Film Editing (Wenders Li)
  • Nominated: Best Art Direction (Yee Chung -Man, Yi Zheng-Zhou, Pater Wong)
  • Nominated: Best Makeup & Costume Design (Yee Chung -Man, Jessie Dai, Lee Pik-Kwan)
  • Nominated: Best Action Choreography (Ching Siu-Tung)
  • Nominated: Best Sound Effects (Sunit Asvinikul, Nakorn Kositpaisal)
  • Nominated: Best Original Film Score (Chan Kwong-Wing, Peter Kam, Chatchai Pongprapaphan, Leon Ko)

2nd Asian Film Awards[edit]

  • Won: Best Visual Effects (Ng Yuen Fai)
  • Nominated: Best Film
  • Nominated: Best Director (Peter Chan)
  • Nominated: Best Actor (Jet Li)
  • Nominated: Best Cinematographer (Arthur Wong)
  • Nominated: Best Editor (Wenders Li)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Coonan, C. "Chan's 'Warlords' wraps", Variety, 2007-03-30. Retrieved on 2007-04-02.
  2. ^ Unknown. "Peter Chan steps away from romance", CCTV, 2006-12-25. Retrieved on 2007-04-03.
  3. ^ (Chinese) Unknown. "A visit to the shooting of Warlords", Sina Entertainment, 2007-03-16. Retrieved on 2007-04-03.
  4. ^ (Chinese) Unknown. "Blood Brothers begins shooting in Beijing", Nanfang Daily, 2006-12-05. Retrieved on 2007-04-03.
  5. ^ (Chinese) Unknown. "Warlords in copyright troubles", Beijing Morning Post, 2007-03-20. Retrieved on 2007-04-02.
  6. ^ (Chinese) Unknown. "Warlords wraps up, to be released simultaneously across Asia before New Year", Beijing Morning Post, 2007-04-02. Retrieved on 2004-04-02.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "The Warlords (2010)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  11. ^ Lam, Perry (1 2008). "'Reinventing heroism'". Muse Magazine (12): 104.  Check date values in: |date= (help)

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
After This Our Exile
Hong Kong Film Awards for Best Film
Succeeded by
Ip Man
Preceded by
Lust, Caution
Golden Horse Awards for Best Film
Succeeded by
No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti