Pull up a seat, folks – we’re headed to Los Angeles to meet the Sun family in Netflix’s new action-packed dramedy, The Brothers Sun. Created by Brad Falchuk (of Glee and American Horror Story fame) and newcomer Byron Wu, this globetrotting series blends high-octane fight sequences with quirky humor and surprisingly heartfelt family bonding.
Centered on a Taiwanese crime family, The Brothers Sun kicks off when an attack on patriarch Big Sun leaves him comatose. Eldest son Charles heads to LA in search of his mother Eileen and younger brother Bruce, who he hasn’t seen in 15 years. Cue the comedy as hardcore killer Charles struggles to connect with gentle giant Bruce, who has been kept utterly clueless about the family business.
While the show leans into this mismatched buddy dynamic for laughs early on, it also touches on universal themes many of us can relate to – the push and pull between generations, the tangled web of obligation to one’s family, and the conflicting dreams that divide immigrant clans. Michelle Yeoh brings her signature gravitas to the role of Eileen, the stealthy brains behind the criminal empire, while newcomers Justin Chien and Sam Song Li endear themselves as the titular brothers.
As secrets spill out and rival factions close in, The Brothers Sun shapes up to be an accessible and binge-worthy entry point into the triad crime genre. So kick back, grab some snacks, and let’s delve into the wild ride that is the Sun family saga. One thing’s for sure – we’re in for action, humor, and maybe some tears too before the credits roll on this rowdy clan.
Meet the Crime Family Next Door
At the center of all the chaos is the Sun family – a fierce triad clan hiding in plain sight in the San Gabriel Valley suburbs. Eldest son Charles (played by Justin Chien) is a ruthless gang enforcer raised in Taiwan under the tutelage of his crimelord father, Big Sun. Known by his sinister nickname “Chairleg,” Charles has killed dozens of men without flinching. But under that stony exterior lies an unexpected soft side: Charles dreams of leaving the family business to open his own bakery, whipping up perfect pineapple cakes in between bingeing reality shows.
Younger son Bruce (Sam Song Li) couldn’t be more different. Raised in blissful ignorance by mom Eileen, the hapless pre-med student would rather be doing improv comedy than getting involved in his family’s bloody disputes. Bruce brings much of the show’s humor, constantly horrified by the situations his brother nonchalantly drags him into. Yet over time, the brothers rediscover their childhood bond under the most unlikely of circumstances.
And then there’s indomitable matriarch Eileen (the legendary Michelle Yeoh), who has hidden her own secrets from her Americanized son. As the savage brains behind the Sun empire back in Taiwan, Eileen is a formidable tactician commanding respect from all who cross her path. One minute she’s sweetly cheering on Bruce’s terrible improv shows, the next she’s interrogating prisoners while dismembering a body in her suburban kitchen.
Among the supporting crew, Charles’ father Big Sun back in Taiwan represents the old guard, clinging to traditional triad values and grooming his son as a loyal attack dog. But shifty lawyer Alexis (Charles’ childhood friend turned mob prosecutor) and Bruce’s loser buddy TK bring complications from the West, threatening to tempt the brothers away from the fold. As competing cultures and criminal codes collide, it’s ultimately the Sun family ties that anchor this rowdy genre rollercoaster.
Laughs and Ultraviolence
Tonally, The Brothers Sun resembles a mashup between an Edgar Wright crime caper, John Wick’s bone-crunching combat, and classic Jackie Chan kung fu hijinks. Violent, deadpan, and more than a little absurd, the show successfully fuses gritty mob action with sunny sitcom humor.
Much of the comedy springs from Bruce’s fish-out-of-water flailing as he’s forced to tag along on his brother’s criminal escapades. Charles might be grimly wrapping duct tape around a corpse’s severed head, but bumbling Bruce is begging him to switch radio stations or complaining he’ll be late for improv practice. Other lighter moments come from Charles’ unexpected hobbies, like meticulously perfecting his pork bun recipe or tearing up at sappy Taiwanese soap operas.
But when it comes time to throw down, The Brothers Sun gets seriously brutal. Taking cues from Hong Kong crime thrillers and John Wick’s fluid, room-wrecking fight choreography, Charles’ ruthless combat leaves trails of mangled bodies and severed limbs behind – all filmed with slick tracking shots and slow-motion impacts. One spectacular sequence sees Charles calmly trounce a dozen attackers at a child’s dinosaur-themed birthday party, the inflatable T-Rex costumes adding an extra layer of surreal hilarity.
Through it all, the show manages the balancing act of keeping its emotional core grounded. For every severed head played for laughs, there’s a resonant moment like Charles shedding a tear amidst the gore of battle. And while Bruce’s mortified reactions score chuckles early on, his character believably evolves in response to the bloodshed around him.
Ultimately the show’s blend of grit and goofiness, thrills and feels, pays homage to its genre forebears while crafting an accessible entry point for viewers unfamiliar with triad crime fare. Like Bruce, you might wince at the violence but still find yourself drawn into the Sun family’s topsy-turvy world.
Welcome to Sun Family Territory
Unlike the neon-bathed rainslick streets of classic Hong Kong crime films, much of the show unfolds under the bright SoCal sunshine in Los Angeles and the surrounding San Gabriel Valley. This setting spotlight communities and culturally-specific spaces that rarely make the mainstream media cut.
The family’s stomping grounds are peppered with beloved mom-and-pop restaurants and gathering hubs crucial to the Asian American community, like Eileen’s mahjong parlor (actually an intricate gossip network) or the Korean spa that becomes an unexpected triad war zone. Even Charles seeks solace in the familiar flavors of boba tea cafes and Chinese bakeries as he acclimates to American life.
But beneath the suburban hood lies a parallel world ruled by the ruthless codes of honor governing Taiwan’s ancient triad societies. It’s a stark contrast to the relative normalcy Bruce has known stateside – though Eileen has secretly kept ties to ensure the Jade Dragons’ reign even across the sea.
The diferences in Charles and Bruce’s upbringings fuel much of the show’s fish-out-of-water comedy and central conflict. While Bruce quotes nonsensical improv mantras and rips vape pens with his wannabe-rapper bestie, Charles methodically disposes of enemies and navigates the ever-shifting triad landscape he was raised to inherit.
Yet as secrets unfurl and battles erupt right in their quiet neighborhood, the Sun brothers discover their home turf may not be quite so safe and sleepy after all. In this little corner of the San Gabriel Valley, you never know which suburban mom might secretly be running an underground empire from her kitchen table.
Buckle Up, It’s Gonna Get Bloody
The Brothers Sun kicks off with an explosive attack on Charles Sun’s luxury penthouse in Taiwan, leaving his crimelord father Big Sun in a coma. Sensing unfinished business, Charles heads to Los Angeles to track down his mother Eileen and clueless younger brother Bruce, who he hasn’t seen in 15 years.
Bruce, who has grown up believing his family runs a simple Chinese restaurant, gets the shock of his life when he stumbles onto Charles and Eileen dismembering a corpse in their suburban kitchen. As it turns out, Eileen was the cunning strategist behind the Sun’s powerful Taiwanese triad before stepping back to raise Bruce in blissful Americana ignorance.
But with Big Sun out of commission and vengeful gangs plotting to fill the power vacuum, there’s no more hiding for the Sun matriarch and her hapless son. The family dives headfirst into increasingly bloodier showdowns with Taipei’s deadliest triad societies and the mysterious upstarts angling to take them down.
While Charles and Eileen easily snap back into their roles as underworld fixers, Bruce bumbles through shootouts and torture sessions – when he’s not begging his relatives to just be normal. He’d much rather hang with his goofy best friend TK or daydream about finally making it big through improv comedy.
Amidst all the carnage there are glimmers of hope, like Charles reconnecting with his childhood sweetheart Alexis. But she’s gone from teenage gang princess to tenacious ADA hot on the trail of the very crime syndicate Charles is set to inherit.
As the warring factions and blurring lines between cop and criminal close in, the Sun brothers are forced to confront buried family secrets and decide what they’re willing to sacrifice for the sake of tradition, legacy, and each other. Because not everyone will make it out of this triad war alive…
Fighting Highs and Flawed Blows
While The Brothers Sun isn’t flawless by any means, its heights outweigh its stumbles thanks to standout lead performances, spectacular action sequences, and resonant family themes.
Michelle Yeoh brings her signature gravitas to Eileen, nailing both comedic frustration and operatic pathos in a role that deconstructs the ‘tiger mom’ stereotype. Comparisons to her acclaimed turn in Everything Everywhere All at Once are inevitable but fail to capture Eileen’s unique mélange of warmth, wry wit, and steely ruthlessness.
As her polar opposite sons, Justin Chien and Sam Song Li also impress in their first major roles. Chien pivots seamlessly between coiled lethality and deadpan humor as Charles, while Li’s hapless Bruce becomes the show’s emotional core. Together, their odd couple chemistry and hard-won fraternal bond form the heart that drives the show.
While bombastic and bloody, The Brothers Sun stays grounded thanks to the realism woven into its Little Taipei setting. From the Mandarin banter to regional comfort foods to the prominence given to community hubs like Eileen’s mahjong parlor, it’s a side of Asian America seldom seen. Even wild triad lore has its roots in Chinatown oral histories.
Of course the main draw is the bravura fight choreography. Paying homage to Hong Kong crime classics, the extended smackdown sequences unleash John Wick-level carnage while dangling tongues firmly in cheek. One standout scene sees Charles calmly battering goons at a child’s dino party in inflatable T-Rex getups.
But not all works… While the Sun family pops, side characters are a mixed bag. Some land their bits beautifully (Blood Boots’ cheerful menace) while others feel like hollow plot devices or stale comic relief (Alexis, TK).
As the plot lurches into high melodramatic gear, there’s less room left to develop the central relationships. The brothers’ dynamic detours into repetitive bickering, while Eileen disappears for episodes at a time. For a show about family, they spend remarkably little quality time together.
The back half amps plotting over character work, relying on convoluted twists and trauma pileups. Comedy and catharsis clash awkwardly amidst the cloying histrionics.
Stuck between gritty action and breezier bonding, The Brothers Sun loses itself in a no-man’s land where highs like the first remarkable fight scene feel unsustainably far away. But for fans of the cast or well-made comic ultraviolence, it still delivers enough entertainment to scratch that niche itch.
It’s All about Family at the End of the Day
For all its flashy action and labyrinthine twists, The Brothers Sun remains anchored by the relatable family dynamics at its core. Michelle Yeoh commands the screen as tough triad matriarch Eileen, while Justin Chien and Sam Song Li endear as her estranged sons, divided by upbringing yet bonded by blood.
It’s this Odd Couple dynamic between ruthless killer Charles and hapless improv-comic Bruce that initially gives the show its novelty value. And when the Sun family shares scenes together – during mahjong squabbles or botched torture sessions – their chemistry delights.
If only the plotting held up its end of the bargain. As the genre trappings amp up, the central relationships get buried in convoluted conspiracies. Supporting players also fail to convince amidst thinly-sketched crime world lore.
Yet for all its flaws in execution, The Brothers Sun still succeeds as an accessible entry point into the triad crime genre. It modernizes the classic formula with a wholly Asian American ensemble and an endearing family anchored by compelling star turns. Michelle Yeoh fans will lap up her signature gravitas put to comedic effect, while the bickering brother dynamic offers mass appeal.
Bolstered by bombastic shootouts and the comedic confusion of cultures, The Brothers Sun is foremost a story about the ties that bind family across generations and geographic divides. Its beating heart will speak to anyone who’s ever clashed with parents over expectations or rediscovered estranged siblings. For that relatable human element buoying all the gangland mayhem, the Sun family saga still shines.
The Brothers Sun
Despite uneven plotting and supporting characters, The Brothers Sun emerges as a solid binge thanks to the chemistry of its talented leads and moments capturing universal family bonds. Michelle Yeoh and rising stars Justin Chien and Sam Song Li anchor the zany action with heart, while nods to Asian American life further ground the show's pulpy sensibilities. For all its flaws, The Brothers Sun is an easy recommendation for genre fans hungry for both adrenaline kicks and laughs.
- Strong lead performances from Michelle Yeoh, Justin Chien and Sam Song Li
- Fun action sequences and fight choreography
- Moments of surprisingly effective emotional drama
- Spotlights Asian American culture and communities
- Supporting characters less developed
- Overly convoluted plotting
- Tonal issues and clashing comedy
- Repetitive family drama beats