LIFE! RECOMMENDS

Film Picks: Fury, Brotherhood Of Blades, John Wick and The Golden Era

FURY (NC16)

134 minutes

****

War movies used to be about heroism and manliness. In recent times, they have been about fear, uncertainty and doubt. Fury by David Ayer (cop drama End Of Watch, 2012) belongs firmly in the latter school, made popular in films about the war in Vietnam.

The moral dilemmas of Platoon (1986) and Full Metal Jacket (1987) are worked here into a drama set during World War II, usually seen as the last "good" war fought by the Americans, a fight in which the enemy was unequivocally evil.

In the final months of the war, American ground forces have taken the fight to Germany. The battle-tested crew of the tank Fury - including Don "Wardaddy" Collier (Brad Pitt) - must adapt to greenhorn assistant driver Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman).

There are setpiece engagements here that stand out as the most visceral ever filmed, and all the actors are excellent, despite their thin, almost caricaturish personalities. The final showdown at the film's climax is completely over the top, but what it lacks in accuracy of tactics, it more than makes up for in nail-biting excitement.

John Lui


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BROTHERHOOD OF BLADES (PG13)

106 minutes

****

Wuxia movie heroes are typically driven by codes of honour and justice, which can make them a little one-dimensional.

The protagonists here, however, are anti-heroes, a trio of underground Ming dynasty palace assassins driven by thirst for money and status.

No one is obviously good or bad, which makes the characters so much more believable and the story perpetually suspenseful as it keeps you guessing their fates right to the end.

Immediately after a new emperor takes over the Ming dynasty court, he orders the downfall of eunuch Wei and his supporters, a group who wielded much power under the previous ruler. Three palace assassins (Li Dongxue, Chang Chen and Wang Qianyuan) are tasked to kill them.

Good old-fashioned swordplay takes centre stage here - and, more importantly, the requisite cheesy romance is kept to a minimum.

Yip Wai Yee


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JOHN WICK (NC16)

101 minutes

***1/2

This vengeance action-thriller turns on the most basic of principles: an eye for an eye. The film is all about packing in as much stylish bloodshed as possible into its efficient 100-minute running time, and it does this well.

Ex-assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) cuts a swathe through the Russian mafia with feet, knives and lots of guns after his dog is killed by thugs out to steal his vintage Mustang.

The selling point of the movie is its physicality. Hand-to-hand combat (the Russian variant, Sambo) figures a great deal. There is no fancy wirework, just straight-forward, realistic combat.

Directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski - stunt coordinators making a feature debut - have no qualms giving Wick and his companions all the things that go boom. Their background in stunts gives them great respect for weaponry. No one here shoots without aiming, nor do the bad guys run into bullets every chance they get.

JL


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THE GOLDEN ERA (PG13)

178 minutes

***1/2

The Golden Era is about the bohemian life of the talented and ill-fated Chinese writer Xiao Hong (Lust, Caution, 2007's Tang Wei). Set in 1930s China, she wants to find love and wants to be able to write - both goals turn out to be tall orders.

She is bold and brash in following her heart - eloping with a married cousin and later shacking up with the man she was originally supposed to marry.

Abandoned by the latter, saddled with a huge hotel bill she cannot pay and pregnant, she meets Xiao Jun.

Tabloids today would have had a field day squeezing her juicy story dry, but director Ann Hui (A Simple Life, 2011) is more interested in a nuanced portrayal of a character whose joy, pain and loneliness is made palpable by Tang's charismatic presence.

As the mercurial Xiao Jun, Feng Shaofeng (Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon, 2013) is also compelling to watch.

Boon Chan