Orphans Sunny and Verdy are like brothers, but are separated when Verdy is adopted by a wealthy couple. Their paths cross again when Verdy (now a successful businessman) and his fiancée are kidnapped by a crew of pirates while on vacation. With the ransom set, Verdy is reunited with his long lost friend - who, it appears, has joined the pirates. Will they be able to come together to prove that brothers don't always have to share blood?
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'The Pirate Brothers', is an action-packed tale of truth, brotherhood and vengeance. When young Sunny loses his protective brother to a gang of thugs, he vows from then on to seek eventual revenge. Years later, he ends up in an orphanage where he befriends an innocent boy who has lost both parents. Verdy, the boy, suggests that he and Sunny become brothers, so that they themselves can be a family. Sunny accepts and protects Verdy as once his big brother protected him. Their paths split when Verdy is adopted by a wealthy family. Destined for a different path and separated by fate, their lives cross again when Verdy, now successful and wealthy is kidnapped by pirates during a holiday with his fiance. The pirates' intentions become clear, it's not a ransom they want, it's the eventual death of Verdy. Things turn for the worse when, after years of separation, Sunny appears as a member of the gang of pirates. They are brothers not by blood but by Will: but is this enough to save Verdy?
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Like many folks, I'll always remember Robin Shou for his role in MORTAL KOMBAT - not only because I like the movie, but because he hasn't had too many notable parts since then. It's surprising that he went about fifteen years without a starring role, when I'm certain I wasn't the only fan eager to see him cut loose again as a martial arts superstar. Well, it's finally happened: after languishing without a wide release for about three years, MORTAL ENEMIES is finally out in North America and sees Shou receive both top billing and screen majority. Disappointingly, it's not exactly the full return to form I had been hoping for, and not a perfect movie in other aspects either.nnThe story: twenty years after being separated and seeing their brotherhood shattered, Sunny (Shou) and Verdy (Imade Bhawanta) meet again as pirate and businessman. Necessity and retained loyalty drive them to combat a plot that puts Verdy and his fiancée in danger.nnWhile Shou's name and experience likely helped the film, he sort of puts himself into a vulnerable position by appearing alongside younger and fiendishly athletic stars. His co-lead, Verdy Bhawanta, is not only twenty years Shou's junior but also a noted capoeira practitioner, and I think it's safe to say that he outruns Robin for the money. But even with a lot of exceptional talent in the credits, the action content is in trouble. There are about seven fights here, and I think only two are particularly good. The camera consistently hugs the action, providing too little room to appreciate the choreography, which ends up being on the bland side too often. Slow motion is slightly overused. Shou looks quick and strong but doesn't do too many exciting things, whereas Verdy occasionally shines through the use of some smooth dance-fighting and pro wrestling moves. Curiously-cast Brazilian fighter Marcio da Silva does well enough for his role but his end fight isn't that spectacular, whereas a seemingly indestructible enforcer played by Ryan Adriant is more impressive.nnA lengthy backstory ends up providing the two leads with 50% more character than is the norm for these pictures, which is fortunate because as soon as the movie kicks into full action mode (about 40 minutes in), the drama this one had going for it promptly dies. Sunny and Verdy take turns being inconsistent in their resolve and feelings towards each other, and the screenplay attempts to tell too much of the story too fast by rapid-firing the plot twists into your lap with little chance to digest anything. Everybody does well enough when it comes to acting, though only when speaking a language they're comfortable with: about 60% of the film features Indonesian dialogue, with the rest being English, and whenever Verdy goes from the former to the latter, it's a bit uncomfortable to listen to. The soundtrack, however, is surprisingly atmospheric and fun.nnIf he manages to seize more prominent roles, Verdy Bhawanta has a chance of being mentioned in the same breath as Iko Uwais. Robin Shou, on the other hand, seems to have been out of steam here. I'm pretty disappointed that he doesn't make more of an impact in MORTAL ENEMIES, especially with the level of freedom that independent films like this are afforded. Maybe he was trying to make his costars look good, but for me, Shou was the main reason to see the movie and he just doesn't make it entirely worth it. Bored martial arts fans should still feel free to give this a watch, but don't count on it to become a new favorite.
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