The Warlords, previously known as The Blood Brothers, is a 2007 epic war film directed by Peter Chan and starring Jet Li, Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Xu Jinglei. The film was released on December 13, 2007 simultaneously in most of Asia, except Japan. The film is set in the 1860s, during the Taiping Rebellion in the late Qing Dynasty in China and centers on the sworn brotherhood of three men.
Qingyun convinces the bandits to join the Qing army to earn money and security to feed their families; Erhu and Wuyang are hesitant at first, and only agree after the three brothers swear a "Blood Oath", with which they affirm their fraternity to one another under pain of death. Qingyun, with the help of Erhu's army wins over a rebel convoy to show latter's strength to Qing Lords. Qingyun then goes on to meet his old superiors, who are reluctant at first to reinstate him, but upon allowing him the task of conquering a major city, he proves his worth in a victorious battle against a numerically superior force. In this battle, the tide is turned when Wuyang sneaks through the enemy lines and decapitates the enemy general. Qingyun's subsequent promotion and increased support from the Qing lords spurs him to lead the brothers and his
Fearing Qing-yun's growing power and influence, the Qing lords decide to deny Qingyun valuable reinforcements and provisions; without their support, Qingyun's prompt attack on Suzhou devolves into a year long siege, with both sides suffering from starvation. Desperate, Qingyun negotiates with his longtime rival and nemesis, General Ho, offering him half of the spoils of Nanking in return for supplies. Meanwhile Erhu sneaks into the city disguised as an opium dealer, hoping to assassinate the Taiping general ruling Suzhou and thus end the siege. The general surprises Erhu by revealing that he already knows of his plot and says that despite starvation, his troops and people will never surrender due to their loyalty. In an ensuing duel, the general allows Erhu to kill him anyway, saying that as long as he is alive his people will never be free of the siege. His dying wish is that his soldiers and citizens be spared. Moved by the official's sacrifice, Erhu agrees to the terms, but a returning Qingyun feels differently: even with the new provisions, food remains critically short, the rebels cannot be conscripted or released, and the Nanjing expedition would be jeopardized. Instead, he orders the prisoners to be executed, enraging Erhu into considering desertion over the death of innocent thousands. But Qingyun manages to convince him to stay and rejoin the cause by arguing that there are millions of innocents to save in Nanjing.
The Nanjing campaign becomes a grand success, and Qingyun is appointed as a provincial governor by the Empress for his services. He even gets the Empress to agree to his request for a 3 year moratorium on taxes in Nanjing so that the peasants can recover from years of war. Nonetheless, the war has caused a rift between the three brothers, most prominently with Erhu, who quietly defies Qingyun's orders by doling out soldier's pay from the imperial coffers; his offenses and popularity become known to the Qing lords, who cajole Qingyun into arranging his assassination. Erhu is fed false information of a plot by General Ho to assassinate Qingyun and he rides off to warn him only to get ambushed. Meanwhile, Wuyang discovers Qingyun's affair with Liansheng and catches wind of the plot against Erhu. Believing that
Now alone, Wuyang reminisces upon the words of the oath that was taken long ago.