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The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

STREAMING SERIES REVIEW: Netflix’s action-comedy with an Asian bent packs a punch with compelling brother dynamics

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Image used with permission from Netflix
The Sun family sans the patriarch gather to come up with an important plan in Episode 5, “The Rolodex.”

With flawlessly timed comedic reliefs and cut-throat action scenes, Netflix’s latest drama series, “The Brothers Sun,” sets the standard for perfecting the balance between wit and crime.

Consisting of a predominantly Asian cast, the show — rated Mature for its violence and profanity — features familiar stereotypes like drawers filled with take-out condiment packets and parents who boast of raising future doctors. But its celebration of meaningful and nuanced Asian traditions is an element that distinguishes the production from other popular crime series like “Breaking Bad” and “Ozark.”

Episode 1, “Pilot,” pictures assassin Charles Sun (Justin Chein, “Sun Moon”) baking a cake shortly before he is ambushed by a group of unidentified killers. These assailants are also responsible for sending his father, Big Sun (Johnny Kou, “Teresa Teng), the head of a notorious Tawainese triad, the Jade Dragons, into a coma.  

Following the attack on his father, Charles Sun sets foot in Los Angeles in search of his estranged mother Eileen Sun (Michelle Yeoh, “A Haunting in Venice”) and younger brother Bruce Sun (Sam Song Li, “Never Have I Ever”). 

Unlike his older brother who was raised amid gang shootouts and shady business, Bruce Sun lives in the heart of sunny California oblivious to his older brother and father’s violent lifestyle in Taiwan. 

Played by actor Justin Chein, Charles Sun (left) fights off assailants at a Korean spa. (Image used with permission from Netflix)

Thus, directors Byron Wu (“The Getaway“) and Brad Falchuk (“American Horror Stories“) craft an interesting dynamic between the two siblings — a ruthless killer and a dorky pre-med student — who face the struggles of navigating a difference in upbringing.

This discrepancy is first demonstrated in Episode 2, “Favor for a Favor,” which details an amusing encounter when Bruce Sun witnesses Charles Sun and Eileen Sun dismembering a body in their modest kitchen. The added humor of the duo’s nonchalance as they stuff the body into a suitcase makes it by far, the most memorable interaction.

As the two rekindle their relationship, they find themselves entangled in a deadly conflict with gang members out for their throats. In Episode 4, “Square,” Charles Sun arranges a rendezvous with rival gang leader, Sleepy Chan, at a Korean sauna located at the center of Korea Town. 

Their exchange is just one of the many combat scenes highlighted throughout the series, but nonetheless, an entertaining and slippery feud in the enclosure of the steamy spa. The camera skillfully captures flying kicks and ruthless punches as swarms of fighters lunge at Charles Sun, enhancing the directors’ choice to conclude the conflict with an explosion. 

Episode 4 also briefly introduces Eileen Sun as a powerful force in the formidable world of Taiwanese gangs, which deviates from her image as a typical nagging Asian mother who indulges in mahjong and gossip during her downtime.

Starring Oscar Award-winning actress Yeoh as a tenacious mother and arguably the best casted role in the eight-episode series that premiered on Thursday, Jan. 4, the audience can anticipate the exciting development of Eileen Sun’s character in the upcoming episodes. Yeoh is far from ordinary, leading viewers to suspect that she has something up her sleeves beneath her unassuming facade.

Hence, the series offers commentary on the complexities of leading a double life, much like Netflix’s 2023 action film, “Kill Boksoon,” which follows a female assassin who simultaneously navigates motherhood.

Despite the well-choreographed action scenes that intensify the angst of criminal life, at the heart of the show is an exploration of conventional family relationships and the often suffocating expectations placed upon children.

“The Brothers Sun” is ultimately a journey of unveiling not just complicated family secrets, but the hidden and “normal” pursuits of the Sun brothers. Bruce Sun’s aspirations of pursuing improv and Charles Sun’s ambitions of launching a bakery, coupled with the humor of his fascination with churros, challenge the norms of toxic masculinity within Asian culture. 

With episodes running between 47-69 minutes, the storyline moves at a rather fast pace, resulting in moments in which the scenes overlook important background details about key characters. From corny dialogue to confusing love interests, the series frequently gives the impression of being seriously rushed. 

Though Netflix has yet to confirm a renewal, these lingering questions pose the promising possibility for a well-deserved second season.

“The Brothers Sun”’s relatable storyline about grappling with one’s identity amid familial expectations makes it a series more than worthy of binging.

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About the Contributor
Irene Sheen, Managing Editor
After spending her junior year on staff as the special sections editor, senior Irene Sheen is excited to contribute to The Accolade as the next managing editor. During her final year of high school, she strives to strengthen her writing expertise, and most importantly, enhance the publication’s print products. With a profound passion for political reform and civic engagement, the journalist also intends to use this platform to facilitate conversations on social and cultural issues. Outside of Room 138, Sheen takes pleasure in binging movies, baking bread, exploring cafes and experimenting with her nails.
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