Writer: Ezekiel Lee Zhiang YangWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
“Blood Brothers”, “Warlords”, “Ip Man”
When producer Peter Chan lined up an embarrassment of stars last year at the Hong Kong Filmart to announce "Bodyguards And Assassins", the question on everybody's mind was "How are they going to fit Tony Leung, Fan Bing Bing, Leon Lai, Jacky Cheung, Eric Tsang, Simon Yam, Nicholas Tse and Donnie Yen into one single movie?"
The list doesn't stop there, mind you. To shoot a reimagining of a 1905 assassination attempt on Sun Yat Sen in Hong Kong, the "Warlords" producer found some beefy RMB (to the tune of 150 million, reportedly) to finance this historical action epic, complete with an elaborate 1:1 production set to reflect Central District, Hong Kong, in those times. Like a theatre play, the movie showcases more than ten actors in a leading role (just look at the poster), each getting their own extended dramatic moments. This move has mixed results, as the story is led outward (instead of forward) by so many and end up becoming something like a private showcase of individual talent instead of a solid, event-based adventure. We get a confusing gambler of a policeman in Donnie Yen, who's the ex-flame of Fan Bing Bing's concubine character, loyal to the tycoon played by Wang Xue Qi. We have Eric Tsang as a British policeman (who takes Imperialism rather seriously, down to the choice of facial hair grooming), pro basketball player Mengke Bateer as a hawker, Hu Jun as a Qing Court assassin and also a pudgy-looking Leon Lai as a jilted lover of a beggar. These characters take you through almost two hours of sight-seeing and rebellion planning before Wang Bo Chieh's Sun Yat Sen double is shepherded by Tony Leung's rebel scholar across town in the all-important climax.
We can be glad the story is still coherent, although Donnie Yen again obliges with an pummelling overkill during his bit, just to let you know it's a Donnie Yen movie. For action fans, you might like to know that this flick does have a move or two but it's ultimately more drama and character buildup. That is to say, Nicholas Tse plays an uneducated rickshaw puller for the tycoon's family, getting some romantic downtime with Zhou Yun's disabled damsel character and involving himself in some high-kicking action, for a role that really is rather pointless. That isn't to say it isn't a good turn from him, as he actually manages to be the most memorable character next to Tony Leung the revolutionary, as the two are anchored by Wang Xue Qi's well-played tycoon character.
"Bodyguards And Assassins" will go down as one very expensive movie that you have to respect, despite a somewhat peculiar and uneven aftertaste. It's an uncomfortable marriage between drama and action but nevertheless most will find this engrossing and highly entertaining. You can watch it just for the all-star lineup and won't feel shortchanged.Cinema Online, 19 December 2009