'The Brothers Sun' Basks in the Warm Glow of Michelle Yeoh

Created by Byron Wu and Brad Falchuk

Starring Michelle Yeoh, Sam Song Li, Justin Chien, Madison Hu, Highdee Kuan, Joon Lee, Jenny Yang, Alice Hewkin, Johnny Kou

Photo courtesy of Netflix

BY Alex HudsonPublished Jan 15, 2024

Fresh off the Oscar-winning breakthrough of Everything Everywhere All at Once, Michelle Yeoh continues her dominant streak with another role as a powerful matriarch, combining larger-than-life action set pieces with a tender examination of family secrets.

The Brothers Sun opens with the attempted assassination of Big Sun (Johnny Kou), a triad gang leader in Taipei, whose subsequent coma leads to the reunion of his long-separated sons: badass Taiwanese gangster Charles (Justin Chien), and Los Angeles improv dork Bruce (Sam Song Li).

The former brother is at the centre of some glitzy, impeccably choreographed fight scenes, but it's the comic release of the latter that's the heart of The Brothers Sun. While going to university to become a doctor, Bruce has been secretly using his tuition money to take improv classes, and his world is rocked to learn that his fussy but sweet mom Eileen (Yeoh) is actually an undercover triad mastermind.

Amid all the bloody fights, the cowering Bruce is a perfect audience stand-in, hilariously reminding viewers how a normal university kid would respond to learning his entire family are powerful gangsters. It's a heightened depiction of the secrets at the heart of many a family's dynamic.

The eight episodes are stuffed full of funny and dynamic characters, with side plots engaging enough to have sustained the series on their own: The Brothers Sun could have easily been a rom-com about Bruce's budding relationship with classmate Grace (Madison Hu), or a wacky drug comedy starring his bestie TK (Joon Lee).

But it's the performances from the main cast that really carry the show. Sam Song Li's fish-out-of-water panic as Bruce means that The Brothers Sun does comedy even better than it does action, and while Justin Chien brings believable brutality to his role as a professional killer Charles, he also elicits warm empathy with his secret love of baking and fixation on reality TV. And, of course, Yeoh is brilliant in a role seemingly tailor-made for her, perfectly embodying the double life of a supportive mom with a secretive past.

Only Highdee Kuan's stiff performance as Alexis Kong, a deputy district attorney and Charles's romantic paramour, fails to deliver a knockout; her roguish habit of munching on spicy noodles at crime scenes isn't enough to make her a rounded character. (The constant eating feels a bit too much like Brad Pitt in Ocean's Eleven.)

The plot gets tangled in the final couple episodes, with many double-crossings that don't always enhance what this show does best: hilarious action showdowns involving loveable characters. The Brothers Sun doesn't end quite as impeccably as it starts, but it still retains the warm glow of its actors.

Latest Coverage