In his role as producer, John Woo must be shaking his head at the mixed response to Blood Brothers. Set in 1930's Shanghai, the story follows three friends as they seek their fortune. After watching the two trailers, I expressed cautious optimism. But opinions are now divided as to the film's success. Variety Asia Online says that audiences in Mainland China appeared to love it. The film made $2.9 million in its first 10 days of release. One week later, the film took a hit in Hong Kong on its opening weekend, earning just $77,541, according to another article in Variety Asia Online. What happened?

The Golden Rock, a Hong Kong blogger and reviewer, notes that a huge billboard advertising the film has already come down. After pointing out that Blood Brothers did not even finish in the Top 10 locally, he says: "At least it's doing well in China, where they must love all that moralizing about brotherhood." Kozo, another Hong Kong-based reviewer, summarizes his feelings at LoveHKFilm.com: "Pretty but uninspired direction, a bare bones script, and underdeveloped characters derail this highly-anticipated reworking of John Woo's Bullet in the Head." An uncredited review by the Associated Press, published by the International Herald Tribune, says that director Alexei Tan's "ultimate failure" is that he "doesn't sufficiently justify the bloodbath that the movie degenerates into."

The film also opened in Malaysia, where a reviewer for Cinema Online was more positive, calling it a "very refined, neo-noir action-drama with a particular interest in the finer, cinematic points of dying." But opening weekend returns were as disappointing as in Hong Kong, as the action picture finished at #8 with a gross of $19,107. Blood Brothers will close the Venice Film Festival on September 8 and then play the Toronto fest on September 12, 13 and 15. Presumably more reviews will be forthcoming.