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The Most Wildly Entertaining Action Thriller of the Year Has a Crucial Secret Weapon

The Brothers Sun proves Michelle Yeoh is still Hollywood’s coolest badass.

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Netflix hasn’t had a particularly great track record when it comes to the action comedy show. Medical Police and Teenage Bounty Hunters only lasted a single season, the dismal critical response suggests Obliterated will follow suit, and even the almighty presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn’t stop FUBAR from flying under the radar. However, proving Michelle Yeoh can do no wrong, The Brothers Sun is the streaming giant’s first such show that could be classed as unmissable.

Created by regular Ryan Murphy cohort Brad Falchuk and relative unknown Byron Wu, the eight-part drama stars Yeoh as Eileen “Mama” Sun, a Taiwanese native who’s spent the last 10 years living the domestic life in Los Angeles mollycoddling her medical student son Bruce (Sam Song Li). But their peaceful existence is shattered one day when her estranged first-born, Charles (Justin Chien), shows up at their front door.

As revealed in the opening scene, Charles is both a whiz in the kitchen and an assassin with the kind of martial arts skills that would put Jackie Chan’s to shame: Immediately nailing the show’s mix of goofy humor and bone-crunching violence, he shows more emotion about his burned cake than the three masked intruders he’s just effortlessly slaughtered. “You enjoy killing too much,” remarks minion Xing (Jenny Yang) during the subsequent cleanup, and she’s not wrong.

Sadly for Charles, he can’t do anything about the gunshot that pierces both his swanky high-rise window and the chest of his father, Big Sun (Johnny Kou), the head of a major triad faction known as the Jade Dragons. Rival honcho Sleepy Chan is presumed to be the culprit, and so the lean, mean killing machine is sent across the Pacific to fulfill the ultimate duty — protect the family.

In stark contrast to his death-defying sibling, Bruce is a hapless, sheltered dweeb with an addiction to improv comedy, the latter trait spawning the show’s best running gag. “He’ll be useless unless Sleepy wants to play charades,” remarks Charles on learning about his family’s significant culture clash. But Bruce’s belief his long-lost brother is “working with penguins in the Antarctic” comes crashing down when the pair bump into each other at a nightclub presided over by a deceptively vicious, Etsy-using gang lord. Within minutes, Charles is single-handedly taking on the local mob, with only a projectile missile capable of thwarting his rapid-fire moves.

Michelle Yeoh’s Mama in mollycoddling mode.


Mama, however, doesn’t seem as perturbed when she returns home to find the hulk of a man Charles has just killed Jason Bourne-style with the use of a wok and a pineapple. “Your beard looks terrible” are her surprisingly nonchalant first words, followed by “fetch the good knife.” The fact that she’s professionally dismembering the body when her shell-shocked sons return from the bombed-out club suggests this isn’t her first rodeo.

Yeoh doesn’t get much chance to show off the stunt work skills that made her Hollywood’s ultimate double threat. A climactic duel, which adds landline phone cord to the show’s list of makeshift deadly weapons, is the only time she’s required to get truly physical. Nevertheless, the actress still exudes badass energy throughout, whether she’s utilizing her mahjong club connections to track down a drug boss, refusing to cave into the demands of her ruthless captors, or rallying against the sexist traditions that bar women from attending triad counsels. And just wait until she makes a trip back to her motherland for a vengeful meeting with a familiar face.

As you’d expect from the reigning Best Actress Academy Award winner, Yeoh also excels during the show’s more emotive beats. Having spent the last decade playing the perfect mother figure, Mama appears to relish being drawn back into an underworld she thought she’d left behind. Unfortunately, this unexpected career rejuvenation also comes with plenty of baggage: the guilt over abandoning Charles and essentially condemning him to a life of violent crime, for example, or the fear of putting her ill-prepared youngest in the line of fire. And thanks to Yeoh’s powerful turns, the heartfelt tête-à-têtes with those affected, particularly the reunion with her own mother in which several devastating home truths emerge, are just as compelling as the kinetic action sequences.

Mama proving she’s a pro with an electric drill.


The Brothers Sun is far from a one-woman show, of course. Song Li provides most of the laughs as the strait-laced mommy’s boy who suddenly finds himself accidentally impaling informants, negotiating with mobsters in a language he can barely speak (“He’s saying the word mountain a lot?”) and seeking refuge in a house owned by John Cho. Chien also impresses as the brooding anti-hero primed since the age of 14 to bury both his enemies and emotions (“If you want to survive, all you can feel is anger or nothing at all”).

And as well as successfully straddling the line between high-octane action and downright farce, the largely all-Asian writing team also portray everything from the immigrant experience to traditional cuisine with a sense of authenticity. Seriously, there’s enough mouthwatering dishes here to launch a Food Network spinoff. We may only be a few days into the New Year, yet The Brothers Sun is already a strong contender for most entertaining new show of 2024. If that wasn’t enough, Yeoh may also have most formidable character of the year sewn up, too.

The Brothers Sun is streaming on Netflix now.

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