Set up as a prequel to the 2014 original, China's "Brotherhood of Blades II: The Infernal Battlefield" trots out the standard mix of historical martial arts intrigue without managing to be particularly intriguing.
Following a brief prologue that takes place in the midst of the Battle of Sarhu between the Ming and Later Jin dynasties, the story advances eight years to 1627, finding Imperial Guard captain Shen Lian (Chang Chen, reprising his role) determined to get to the heart of a conspiracy that had framed him and his partners.
In the process he has been instructed to track down the elusive Bei Zhai (Yang Mi), a gifted artist who has been sentenced to death for her paintings, found to be unflattering to royalty.
Although the ensuing investigation, with its settling of old, entangled scores with a cast of non-descript characters, can be admittedly tricky to track from an audience perspective, that's not the only issue preventing the film from making an engaging mark.
While returning director Lu Yang has dutifully checked off many seemingly obligatory wuxia touches, from the wire work-heavy visceral fight sequences to a tense bamboo forest face-off, there's scant connective tissue to be found buried beneath the overwrought soundtrack.
The blades of the brotherhood may be sharp, but the execution is exceedingly dull.
‘Brotherhood of Blades II: The Infernal Battlefield’
In Mandarin with English subtitles
Running time: 2 hours
Playing: AMC Atlantic Times Square, Monterey Park