Thursday, January 4, 2024

REVIEW: 'The Brothers Sun' - Charles and Bruce Reunite After a Tragedy Befalls Their Family in 'Pilot'

Netflix's The Brothers Sun - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

A family emergency sends a ruthless killer from Taipei to LA. Cash-strapped Bruce takes a new gig. When a crisis erupts, estranged brothers reunite.

"Pilot" was written by Byron Wu & Brad Falchuk and directed by Kevin Tancharoen

As children, brothers Charles and Bruce Sun shared a bedroom. However, they grew up with dramatically different lives. Their father always proclaimed the importance of family. And yet, the family was divided. Half remained in Taiwan running one of the top criminal enterprises. The other left for Los Angeles without any awareness of the truth. That illusion is broken once Big Sun is shot. He was targeted. Charles was attacked in his apartment. That was just a trap to lure his father out of hiding. He needed to see that his son was safe. Of course, he also used it as an opportunity to criticize his son's penchant for killing. Charles is quick to make assumptions about who ordered this attack. It must be the gangster who has been feuding with his father for decades. He is immediately willing to start a war. He completely disregards the order his father gave him should something like this happen. Charles must be reminded of that promise. He doesn't want to travel to Los Angeles to protect the family. That's what he must do.

Charles sees Bruce as weak because he has been shielded from this life. He isn't allowed to pursue his true passion of improv. However, he isn't targeted by criminals willing to kill him because of what his family has done. Instead, he's meant to fulfill the story of becoming a doctor to bring honor to his family. Those are the expectations imposed on him. He finishes tests before anyone else in the class. It's not because he's smarter than his peers. He's simply doing the bare minimum to graduate. He isn't passionate about his studies. As such, it's crushing that he is saddled with debt for something he doesn't enjoy. He wasted his money on an improv class. Now, he's tasked with finding another way to pay for his tuition. The only option is to sell drugs. That business has been lucrative for his best friend. Even then, it's only suppose to produce a couple thousand dollars from one night of work. To make that happen, Bruce must pledge his loyalty to the gangster running the local club. Bruce is willing to do that. However, his actions show a reluctance to do anything illegal. That stands as the sharp contrast that defines the two sides of this family.

Mama Sun straddles the two worlds effectively. She obviously left for a reason. She wanted a better life for Bruce. She couldn't change the plans her husband had for their eldest child. He has grown up to be a cold killer. Sure, he has a passion for baking. He's frustrated that the assassins disrupt his creation. That burning smell lingers throughout the clean up. It's a quirk meant to convey personality. In reality, Charles has only ever been viewed as a skilled assassin. His legend radiates throughout the criminal underworld. People have heard stories about his many incredible feats. Those happen daily. He isn't cautious about any action because he believes he has the skills to kill anyone who threatens him. Any damage done will be cleaned up by people loyal to his family. That's how the system operates in Taipei. Things are different in Los Angeles. He has to take personal responsibility for his actions. He leads a killer to his mother's home. He still kills before getting any solid leads as to who ordered this attack on their family. That's how he conducts business. Things aren't going to change despite his mission shifting overseas to preserve his remaining family.

Charles needs a photo proudly displayed in the living room to even know what his brother looks like. Bruce has been led to believe his father is a degenerate gambler and his brother studies penguins in Antarctica. One side of the family was allowed to have big and exciting lives. Meanwhile, Bruce was just meant to be boring. That allowed him to blend in. He could be hidden and safe so long as that was true. But now, danger looms everywhere. Bruce can no longer afford to be in the dark. He must learn the truth about his family. It's not presented as a simple explanation offered by someone he trusts. Instead, he has to witness it firsthand. He sees the brutal display of martial arts by his brother. The two are bonded by their mother. They show respect towards her. But their connection isn't built on anything true and genuine. They have simple details that makes them identifiable. That's it. That's all that life has ever been for them. Big Sun noticed something about the assassins before he was shot. He may never have the chance to communicate that message. Charles has to trust his partners in Taiwan to keep everything under control. The action shifts to Los Angeles. It's a personal story of this family being targeted.

Meanwhile, Mama Sun compartmentalizes every aspect of this life. The story concludes with her giving distinct orders to her children. Charles is expected to change and help her dispose of a body. Meanwhile, Bruce has to go to bed so he can take a test the following day. Making that switch is effortless on her part. That's how she lives. She has the wisdom to know how to conduct business in both sides of this world. She is the only person to successfully bridge that divide. Others have the potential to learn from her. They can't escape the brutal reality of the threat targeting them. Of course, it can't quite be as simple as it's presented right away. One phrase is repeated over and over again. That indicates how this group has a solid operation on the ground ready to be activated in Los Angeles. Charles didn't have any of that intelligence before walking into this situation. It's an imposing sight. One where he is still capable of handling it all. He also relies on his brother to get out of the club when others want him dead. He is the target. His mother and brother may be safe for now. They are in danger by association. Bruce has no idea what's going on. That makes his life seem trivial in comparison. His father is rich while he's struggling to get by. That doesn't seem fair. Yet he also has to be willing to compromise his morals to gain access to those profits. That may prove difficult for someone who just wants a silly adventure making things up as he goes along. He's not confident with that spontaneity either though. And so, he's just awkward at a time when everyone must act with certainty and conviction.