The Warlords (投名狀 Hong Kong Movie) The Warlords (投名狀 Hong Kong Movie)
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Film Date :   2 April 2010
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The Warlords (投名狀 Hong Kong Movie)


The film is set in the 1860s, during the Taiping Rebellion in the late Qing Dynasty in China. The story, based on an unresolved crime in 1870, tells of three sworn blood brothers who eventually turn against one another due to the harsh realities of war and political intrigue.

The story begins with a vicious battle, after which Qingyun (Jet Li), a Qing Army General, is the only survivor of his entire army. He is defeated because promised reinforcements from a rival General Ho are deliberately withheld. In his aimless wanderings he encounters a girl named Liansheng (Xu Jinglei), who nurses him back to health. Once he regains his strength, Qingyun soon meets Wuyang (Takeshi Kaneshiro), and later Erhu (Andy Lau); leaders of a bandit army that regularly steals food to survive. During a raid on a rebel military convoy, Qingyun wins the engagement by killing the enemy leader and demoralizing their troops. This earns Qingyun friendship and admiration from the bandits, who take him to their village. There he finds Liansheng again, who is revealed to be Erhu's wife, and they begin an illicit affair.

However, the Qing military learns of the raid and retake the stolen goods, plunging the village once again into famine. Qingyun thus convinces the bandits to join the Qing army to earn money and security to feed their families; Erhu and Wuyang are hesitant at first, and only agree after the three brothers swear a "Blood Oath", with which they affirm their fraternity to one another under pain of death. Qingyun then goes on to meet his old superiors, who are reluctant at first to reinstate him, but upon allowing him the task of conquering a major city, he proves his worth in a victorious battle against a numerically superior force. In this battle, the tide is turned when Wuyang sneaks through the enemy lines and chops off the head of the enemy general. Qingyun's subsequent promotion and increased support from the Qing lords spurs him to lead the brothers and his armies through a long but successful campaign against the rebels. His victories cause him to become ambitious in the process, during which he reveals his plan to quickly take Suzhou and Nanjing, the principal power bases of the Taiping rebels, and his dream of ridding the world of oppression.

Fearing Qing-yun's growing power and influence, the Qing lords decide to deny Qingyun valuable reinforcements and provisions; without their support, Qingyun's prompt attack on Suzhou devolves into a year long siege, with both sides suffering from starvation. Desperate, Qingyun negotiates with his longtime rival and nemesis, General Ho, offering him half of the spoils of Nanking in return for supplies. Meanwhile Erhu sneaks into the city disguised as an opium dealer, hoping to assassinate the Taiping general ruling Suzhou and thus end the siege. The general surprises Erhu by revealing that he already knows of his plot and says that despite starvation, his troops and people will never surrender due to their loyalty. In an ensuing duel, the general allows Erhu to kill him anyway, saying that as long as he is alive his people will never be free of the siege. His dying wish is that his soldiers and citizens be spared. Moved by the official's sacrifice, Erhu agrees to the terms, but a returning Qingyun feels differently: even with the new provisions, food remains critically short, the rebels cannot be conscripted or released, and the Nanjing expedition would be jeopardized. Instead, he orders the prisoners to be executed, enraging Erhu into considering desertion over the death of innocent thousands. But Qingyun manages to convince him to stay and rejoin the cause by arguing that there are millions of innocents to save in Nanjing.

The Nanjing campaign becomes a grand success, and Qingyun is appointed as a provincial governor by the Empress for his services. He even gets the Empress to agree to his request for a 3 year moratorium on taxes in Nanjing so that the peasants can recover from years of war. Nonetheless, the war has caused a rift between the three brothers, most prominently with Erhu, who quietly defies Qingyun's orders by doling out soldier's pay from the imperial coffers; his offenses and popularity become known to the Qing lords, who cajole Qingyun into arranging his assassination. Erhu is fed false information of a plot by General Ho to assassinate Qingyun and he rides off to warn him only to get ambushed. Meanwhile, Wuyang discovers Qingyun's affair with Liansheng and catches wind of the plot against Erhu. Believing that Qingyun wants Erhu killed over Liansheng, Wuyang murders her, but Erhu is already dead before Qingyun hears of Liansheng's death. Wuyang therefore strives to fulfill the blood oath and goes to kill Qingyun at his inauguration ceremony. As the two brothers fight, a hidden attacker armed with a rifle shoots Qingyun in the back multiple times as Wuyang stabs him in the chest, killing him.

Now alone, Wuyang reminisces upon the words of the oath that was taken long ago.

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