The Brothers Sun is a surprisingly heartfelt black comedy where family is as fierce as fists, but both pack a powerful punch. The Netflix show is a story of a triad crime family spread across two continents, reunited due to an assassination attempt on a “country boy,” aka a powerful gang leader played by Johnny Kou. Michelle Yeoh plays Eileen ‘Mama’ Sun, the exiled family matriarch. Her two children, split apart and reunited, are played by Justin Chien, a predator with deadly skills, and Sam Song Li, an improv-obsessed student whose character doesn’t know of his family’s deadly legacy.
Michelle Yeoh? Yes, please! I went into this show watching for Michelle Yeoh as a way to get my badass actress fix, as I eagerly wait for the upcoming Star Trek: Section 31 movie and the next season of Star Trek: Discovery. But I came out of my first viewing of The Brothers Sun a complete fan of the massively talented actors that make up the cast and the world of this new original series.
What follows is a spoiler-free review, but if you don’t read it all, know one thing: The Brothers Sun is worth watching through all eight episodes. It’s fantastic, fun, and exciting television. Byron Wu, Brad Falchuk, and the talented writers, cast, and more deserve high praise for bringing this series to life. And there’s an awesome inflatable dinosaur costume fight scene!
Impressive martial arts action in The Brothers Sun
Martial arts movies aren’t something I usually seek out besides the usual action fare, but that may change based on this show. Sure, I’ve watched the classics with Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, but I have yet to go deeper into things like Gymkata, Dragon Inn, or the Michelle Yeoh starring Royal Warriors and Yes, Madam!
The action in The Brothers Sun is front and center, with profound importance to the characters and the story. What happens matters and is not for the sake of studio notes demanding action during the show. The epic action draws you in, and you can’t look away. It’s so fast-paced and creative. There’s not a moment where the quality of the stunning fight choreography and explosive action wanes. It’s consistently impressive from “Pilot” through “Protect the Family.”
Watching the martial arts artistry on display is like attending a deadly dance, and it is so compelling. It’s precise and non-stop. If you liked the famous long Daredevil hallway fight scene, there are moments in The Brothers Sun that are as well crafted and could easily be as iconic, including a massive dim sum banquet battle. It’s no surprise that some of the martial arts geniuses behind this series also brought us John Wick.
Justin Chien, as Charles Sun, is holy-crap iconic with his ninja skills as Chairleg. Chien easily handles the violent choreography. He brings it to life with deadly control, and he needs to star in a million more action movies because he’s so great. He tames the organized chaos with intensity and flare, and it’s a pure joy to experience on screen.
Michelle Yeoh leads a ridiculously charismatic and talented cast
The cast performances blew me away, and I will watch whatever Justin Chien and Sam Song Li star in next. The duo and Michelle Yeoh had believable family chemistry and tension. You feel the weight of duty while watching (in the best way!) and really don’t want to disappoint Mama Sun. (Even as I write this review, I keep thinking that it’s 8 percent of my grade and really important.)
Michelle Yeoh is iconic in this role, and on top of the homages to martial arts characters gone by. Yeoh gives a really layered and standout performance. Amidst the darker portrait of a bad marriage to a bad man, and a woman both fleeing and sharply strategizing for the future of those she loves, is a woman coming apart at the seams.
Mama Sun, too, is struggling with her societal duty and has had enough. But Mama Sun wants what is hers and what she has earned, and watching her come into that is freaking incredible. And also, who knew that they had a bone saw in the house?
The relationship ups and downs between Charles and Bruce are so relatable. And believable in this tale of two brothers from very different walks of life. Justin Chien and Sam Song Li do such a great job of bringing it to the screen, with humor and tension where needed. They are both stars, and I will watch whatever they act in, in the future, because of The Brothers Sun.
Found family is important, as well, especially when the family business is so deadly. Joon Lee as TK is the best kind of comic relief. At one particular remarkable moment involving the FBI and some corner Sun family members, he had me cheering as he saved the day.
Alice Hewkin as June is the right kind of powerful, scary, and competent. Highdee Kuan as Alexis is great and believable as an ambitious DA, and I wanted so much more of the enemies-to-lovers moments between Alexis and Charles. Madison Hu, as Grace, and Jenny Yang, as Xing, deserve praise for bringing their characters to life.
Every single actor in this show is perfectly cast and showcases their strengths.
The story of The Brothers Sun
Despite the violence, a strong emotional core and beating heart underpins the story. The show explores the universal human theme of duty. There’s a duty to self and a duty to family. It’s where the tension and the humor comes from, too.
Forgiveness is also at the core of this story, earning and giving it, along with revenge. It’s a blended genre show that’s a really deep look at the bonds of family. There’s an enormous body count because of the action (seriously, where do all the masked guys keep coming from?), but it never feels excessive and fits within the context of the show.
There’s a deeper exploration of masculinity, too, tied to duty in The Brothers Sun. That’s really appealing to see played out on screen, primarily through Charles.
The episodes don’t feel heavy, and they don’t leave you world-weary like some other shows, but they instead leave you in an upbeat, must-watch, more stylish show mood. It’s pure adrenaline-inspired fun, and the show is elevated by amazing music choices that set the stage for everything going on.
Final thoughts on The Brothers Sun
This is the first season of The Brothers Sun, and I will watch it again, and honestly, again after that. But I really hope it isn’t the last because I want to spend more time with all of these characters and in this world. I literally cannot wait.
Without spoiling the ending, the story in season 1 has a satisfying ending where the villains get their just deserts, but it is also bursting with potential for more stories. There are natural places to go and explore with these characters without being tired. And we seriously need a payoff for John Cho, not just his voice and house.
To borrow language from someone very wise in the show, this series is “inventive, strategic, and ruthless,” and I’ll add adrenaline-fueled fun. It’s an original story that rings true because authenticity is at the core.
The Brothers Sun is a spectacle of masterful martial arts and solid, smooth, and impressive action that could hold its own against any big-screen flick. Incredible acting anchors all of the precise heart-pounding action, kicked up a level by Michelle Yeoh, Justin Chien, and Sam Song Li. Stream it as soon as you have a chance, especially for all the baked goods.
The Brothers Sun is now on Netflix! Have you watched it yet? What did you think? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord!