Michelle Yeoh shines as the ultimate, deadly gangster in the comedic film “The Brothers Sun”.
The opening scene of the Taiwanese American gangster comedy-drama The Brothers Sun features Sandi Toksvig discussing chocolate cake. In a luxurious penthouse in Taipei, the owner is watching The Great British Bake Off while carefully creating his own showstopper dessert. Just as he is about to check the sponge with a cocktail stick, three masked assassins storm in and attempt to assassinate him. After a fight, he emerges victorious but frustrated that the distraction caused his cake to burn.
Charles Sun, also known as Justin Chien, is a skilled baker and the son of a prominent crime leader in Taiwan. He is also a formidable mobster in his own right. When his family becomes the target of a larger attack, Charles is given the responsibility of safeguarding the overlooked members of his clan: his mother and brother, who reside in Los Angeles and live normal lives. As he and his family are pursued by dangerous Taiwanese adversaries, Charles must navigate an action-packed comedy heavily influenced by Jackie Chan’s style. The film cleverly plays on the contrast between the rough and tough world of gangsters and the mundane routines of everyday life.
Sun’s brother, Bruce (also known as Sam Song Li), is a student who is constantly anxious and awkward. His biggest goal is to make his worried mother, Eileen (played by Michelle Yeoh), proud by finishing his studies and landing a high-paying job. However, Bruce has been secretly spending his tuition money on improv classes and working as a taxi driver at night to make ends meet. When we are introduced to him, he is excitedly welcoming two young party-goers into his taxi, but their encounter is cut short when they vomit on his seats.
In simpler terms, Bruce fits the typical stereotype of a likable underdog in countless comedic films. However, his life is about to take a drastic turn when he is unexpectedly reunited with his competent and masculine older brother from his childhood. To make matters worse, Bruce learns that his family is involved in a line of work that is completely unsuitable for his cowardly nature.
The dynamic between the brothers, Charles and Bruce, in The Brothers Sun continues throughout eight episodes. Their initial polar opposite personalities gradually shift as they work together to uncover the person threatening their safety and their mother’s. Charles is shocked by Bruce’s reckless behavior that puts them in danger, while Bruce is uncomfortable with the violence they must commit. However, Charles reveals a softer side with his passion for baking, reignited by the discovery of local churros. Bruce’s fierce love for his mother also shows his own unique strength.
The show fearlessly uses obvious gags, as seen in the first episode where someone is told shocking news while taking a drag on a bong. It also doesn’t shy away from contrived and corny jokes, like the finale of a scene featuring children’s entertainers dressed as dinosaurs who are revealed to be trained assassins. There is a subtle reference to Jurassic Park that is gradually built up before being satisfyingly executed.
Your opinion of The Brothers Sun will vary based on your openness to its underlying message about family responsibilities and the fact that children and parents never truly understand each other. To fully enjoy the show, one must also value the thrill of frequent fight scenes and the humor of cultural differences. While these elements are executed well, they do not bring anything particularly unique or groundbreaking.
Yeoh is the one who can keep this show together with her commanding presence on screen. She effortlessly carries the recurring joke of overbearing mothers ruling their homes like feared mob bosses. However, Eileen has the potential to actually become one. Yeoh’s talent for seamlessly transitioning from sharp impatience to intimidating menace is spot on. It’s no surprise that Mama Sun is just as deadly with her fists as any member of a notorious Chinese criminal organization. While it may not be a shocking revelation, The Brothers Sun isn’t concerned with surprising its audience as long as it continues to entertain, which it successfully does.