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Film / Brotherhood of Blades

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Brotherhood of Blades is a 2014 Chinese Martial Arts Movie.

Three sworn brothers work as assassins for the Emperor of China. Their current job? Take out the former head of the court, who is plotting to overthrow the government. However, like any good assassin story, there's more to the case than there initially appears to be...

Got a prequel, The Infernal Battlefield, in 2017.

This film contains examples of:

  • Action Prologue: Shen leading some assassins, including most of our main characters, in capturing one member of the Eunuch Clique.
  • Almighty Janitor: The three leads rank fairly low as assassins and are generally looked down upon, but they can take on hoards of Mooks on their own. Doubly impressive for Jin, considering he suffers from an Incurable Cough of Death.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The last scene makes it unclear if Shen died of his wounds at the end or if he's just reminiscing of what could've been had Lu and Jin survived.
  • The Atoner: The reason Shen is so dead-set on freeing the courtesan Miaotong is because it was her family he assisted in arresting in the Action Prologue.
  • BFS: Ding Xiu, the petty criminal Jin has history with, wields a very long sword.
  • Big Bad: Zhou Jhingzhong has been secretly manipulating the events of the film so he can take control of the secret police.
  • Bittersweet Ending: If not a full-blown Downer Ending depending on how you look at it. Shen kills Zhou, but by that point Zhou's been rendered a nobody on the run anyways, and Shen's sworn brothers are both dead. It's also possible that he died from his wounds at the very end, though it's left up to interpretation.
  • Blackmail: Ding learns that Jin killed a man and took his identity, and demands 100 taels (5 years of an assassin's salary) to keep quiet. The criminal is a skilled enough swordsman that he can prevent a Blackmail Backfire.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The government employs brutal torture, including eye removal, on everybody they arrest.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Shen along with the other Imperial Assassins are tasked with bringing in Clique member who just happens to be the lover of a courtesan he has feelings for and wishes to free.
  • Crapsack World: Ming China is portrayed as a corrupt land where bribery is mandatory to get ahead and a government-sanctioned Sex Slave operation goes unquestioned. The most heroic characters in the film are a trio of Professional Killers who gladly work for the Secret Police, their only problems with it being that there are infiltrators trying to topple their emperor.
    • It should be noted that this movie is set during the reign of the last Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, just prior to being replaced by the Manchu Qing Dynasty. At this time, China was besieged from all sides, with foreign & domestic enemies running rampant.
  • Coughing Up Blood: Jin suffers from an unnamed illness that makes him do this.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Jin fails to land a single blow of Ding in every one of their fights.
  • Dirty Coward: Zhou absolutely refuses to get his hands dirty, manipulating others to do his bidding and take the fall for him.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Wei Zhongian, who has been plotting to overthrow the government throughout the film, is killed with twenty minutes left. It is then revealed that his godson, Zhou Jhingzhong, had been manipulating events to take power the whole time.
  • Distant Finale: The last act takes place two months later.
  • Eunuchs Are Evil: Wei is a former court eunuch plotting to topple the Emperor.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Subverted. When Ding is paid to kill Jin, he at first acts with offense, but it turns out that offense was towards not being paid more. Double-subverted as Ding finds that he can't bring himself to actually kill Jin after thoroughly trouncing him. He also spares the girl Jin had feelings for.
  • Faking the Dead: Wei has one of his servants burn himself alive to make the government think he's dead, letting him continue his schemes unabated.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Ding carries himself with a laid-back and lackadaisical demeanor, but at the end of the day he's a petty crook who likes making Jin's life miserable. When it comes time to actually kill Jin, however, he hesitates. He also spares the girl Jin liked. He later pulls a full Heel–Face Turn and assists Shen in killing Zhou.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The reason Ding delights in making Jin's life miserable is because their master favored Jin despite Ding being more skilled.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Ding pulls this off sometime before the Distant Finale, presumably in response to both Jin saving his life at the cost of his own and Zhou's attempt to dispose of him.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: How Zhou goes out.
  • Karma Houdini: Ding doesn't suffer any actual punishment for killing Jin's doctor, who was a completely innocent man.
  • Mercy Kill: Shen does this to Yan Peiwei after the Cold-Blooded Torture at the hands of the government renders him eye-less and immobile. It's made significantly harder for Shen by virtue of Yan being the lover of the courtesan he's been trying to free.
  • The Mole: Wei has his godson become head of the Secret Police so he can continue to manipulate them.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Zhou probably could've made the stab wound he inflicted on Shen fatal had he not pushed Shen closer to an available sword.
  • Ninja: A bunch of these sent after our heroes serve as the main Mooks of the film.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: We only see the aftermath of Lu's battle with a group of assailants led by Wei's female guard.
  • The Purge: Emperor Chongzhen orders everybody who worked for Wei assassinated to prevent him from maintaining power after his ousting.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: Zhou usually leaves the dirty work up to other people, but he holds his own pretty well during his final battle with Shen, actually getting a pretty serious stab in. If only he hadn't decided to push Shen closer to his sword in an attempt to run his spear all the way through...
  • Sex Slave: Imperial assassins sometimes force the wives and daughters of their targets to be courtesans at the Academy's brothel.
  • Taking the Bullet: Jin pushes Ding out of the way when two assassins sent to dispose of him open fire.