Director John Woo blazed into America on the strength of gloriously over-the-top violent melodramas like The Killer and Hard-Boiled, but the one that left the deepest impression on me was Bullet in the Head. The 1990 film is gut-wrenching and personal to the point where it feels that Woo simply opened a vein and let his blood seep into every frame. Thus I've been apprehensive about a new film inspired by that heartfelt epic. Produced by Woo and his long-time partner Terence Chang, Blood Brothers follows three friends as they seek their fortune in glamorous Shanghai in the 1930s. It has been selected to close the Venice Film Festival in September.

As described by sales agent Fortissimo, "three innocent young men arrive to this seeming paradise in search of a better future. But as time goes by, their paths diverge, even as they all descend into a life of crime. Soon, friends turn against friends, brother against brother. The blood bonds are now but relics from their early days of innocence." The basic idea sounds similar to Bullet in the Head, but whereas that film was set in war-torn Vietnam in the late 1960s and had a much grittier feel, the two trailers for Blood Brothers feature slick action and a high-toned visual style that is very appealing.

Director Alexi Tan grew up in the Philippines, studied in London and spent more than a decade as a fashion photographer in New York. He made commercials and music videos before attracting the attention of Woo and Chang. Tan co-wrote the script for Blood Brothers, which stars Daniel Wu, Liu Ye and Tony Yang as the three friends and Shu Qi as an alluring singer. Chang Chen and Sun Honglei are also featured. My apprehension has officially become cautious optimism. Blood Brothers will open in Asia in mid-August before making its Venice bow.