‘The Brothers Sun’ series review: Michelle Yeoh leads an action-filled crime-family drama with hilarious performances

A still from ‘The Brothers Sun’

A still from ‘The Brothers Sun’
| Photo Credit: Netflix

Estranged siblings reuniting after long is enough juice for a drama flick. And if those siblings are from a violent family and have different allegiances, it becomes even more enjoyable. Netflix’s The Brothers Sun infuses comedy into the mix and dishes out a Michelle Yeoh-led thriller combining the action chops of the Hong Kong cinema, where she once ruled, with the laid-back comedy of Hollywood where she currently reigns.

Scaling the highest skyscrapers of Taipei, and crawling through the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles, The Brothers Sun takes us through the ins and outs of Taiwanese organised crime families. When an ambush on Charles Sun (Justin Chien), the second-in-command of his family’s triad, ends with his father grievously injured, he flees Taipei and heads to Los Angeles to protect the remainder of his family — his mother Eileen (Michelle Yeoh) and younger brother Bruce (Sam Song Li). While it does not take long for Eileen to catch up with what is happening, Bruce is unable to comprehend why his mother is chopping up body parts of an assassin who attacked his brother (whom he hasn’t seen in 15 years), in the kitchen of their low-lying suburban house.

What ensues then is a mystery thriller of sorts as Charles tries to out-manoeuvre the assassins who have followed him to LA, while also initiating his younger brother into the family business. The show derives its comedic elements from this clash — between Charles’ dangerous and bloody life and Bruce’s life as a reluctant medical student who does improv in secret. Within hours of meeting each other after 15 years, they fight over who should take the trash out…except the trash in this case are the remains of the latest assassin Charles has killed.

The Brothers Sun (Mandarin, English)

Developed by: Byron Wu, Brad Falchuk

Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Justin Chien, Sam Song Li, Joon Lee, Highdee Kuan, and others

Episodes: 8

Runtime: 47-70 minutes

Storyline: Bruce Sun’s life is turned upside down when he discovers that his estranged brother and father head the biggest organised crime family in Taiwan, which is now in danger.

With slick visuals, that are also reflected in its frequent fight sequences, The Brothers Sun stretches this plot for eight episodes. For major parts, the show maintains a balance between its opposing emotions of thrill and comedy and pushes forward a consistently engaging suspense of who is chasing down the Suns. However, the written material is not able to always carry its weight. In the initial few episodes, Bruce’s unawareness of the family business is used as a leeway for the scriptwriters to indulge in expository dialogue. They handhold the audience through the concept of Triads, their various codes of honour, and the hierarchical system, which at times sounds like a history lesson the actors were forced to mug up.

A still from ‘The Brothers Sun’

A still from ‘The Brothers Sun’
| Photo Credit:

Though the performance of the core trio — Yeoh, Chien, and Song Li — carries the heart of this show, the writing noticeably becomes weaker when it deviates from them. Yeoh, who has been marketed as ‘Mama Sun’ in the promotional materials for the show, thankfully is not just relegated to that and slowly but surely becomes central to the plot. When Charles tries to run LA, as he did Taipei, Eileen quickly reins him in, reminding him that she is the one who knows these streets.

The antagonists who pose external threats (especially the law enforcement agencies) to the family triad seem excessive in this mix, and distracting in a plot that benefits from a tight focus on the internal frictions within the family. Another way the show could have achieved the status of a near-perfect entertainer is if Bruce’s arc was given more freedom from the constraints of his initial naivete.

Nevertheless, these writing choices don’t take away from the overall experience of a well-paced, unique show — which can also be described as ‘a basement full of old ladies playing Mahjong take out the Taiwanese crime syndicate’!

All episodes of The Brothers Sun are available for streaming on Netflix

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