Glamorous photography is no substitute for compelling dramatic content. Far too many scenes in Blood Brothers look and feel as though director Alexi Tan followed a self-imposed dictum to "light first, act later." His film labors mightily to get its narrative ball rolling, to no avail.
More's the pity, because Blood Brothers was inspired by very rich source material. John Woo's Bullet in the Head, released in 1990, is arguably Woo's most personal and potent work, gut-wrenching to the point where it feels that he simply opened a vein and let his blood seep into every frame (as I've written before). That film was set in war-torn Vietnam in the late 1960s and had a very gritty feel; by the end, it felt as though you'd suffered as much pain and heartache as the three main characters, close friends whose bond of brotherhood was tested under fire.
Woo's film was originally intended as a prequel to his action classics A Better Tomorrow and A Better Tomorrow II. After Woo had a falling out with producer Tsui Hark, the story was free to develop into something more original, without having to tie the characters into the other films. From the looks of things, it appears that Woo and producing partner Terence Chang similarly encouraged Tan to follow his own artistic muse. Tan's script, completed in collaboration with Jiang Dan and Tony Chan, keeps only the most basic outline of Woo's film: three close friends seek their fortune in the world.