This is the third version of the story I've seen - the first, 1973's Blood Brothers, is one of the best Shaw Brothers' films, and the 1993 remake Blade Of Fury is a strong piece of 90's style wu xia. WARLORDS takes the core of the tale and renders it in the 21st Century big budget historical drama style, where it remains a strong story but trades some visual spectacle for a somewhat diminished sense of drama and human emotions. Although the overall story is the same, it seems to lose some of the moral ambiguity, and character motivations are at once simpler and less convincing.
Jet Li clearly relishes the chance to play a darker character than any I can recall, and is proving in his later years that he really is an actor, not just a fighter. Andy Lau is stuck with a role too close to that he played in A Battle Of Wits to really give a memorable performance, and Takeshi Kaneshiro is a little over-stretched by his character so plays it pretty close to House Of Flying Daggers.
The film is as expensive- and professional-looking as any of the big budget historicals of recent years, with great special effects and old-fashioned armies of extras creating some really impressive battle scenes and a convincing impression of days of yore (actually only 150 years or so ago). As is usually the case though, all those extra dollars seem to put more distance between the audience and the characters on screen, and the end result is not quite as enjoyable as the older versions.