By Anthony Crabtree, Guest Blogger
“Bodyguards and Assassins,” written by Tin Nam Chun, Junli Guo, Bing Wu, James Yuen, directed by Teddy Chan, 139 minutes, unrated.
In the summer of 2010, “Bodyguards and Assassins” premiered at the New York Asian Film Festival along with “Development Hell,” a documentary about the struggles to create the film. I was in New York at the time, and desperately wanted to see the film (which was introduced by actor Simon Yam), but I was on my honeymoon and wasn’t sure if my wife would be receptive of the idea. After viewing the film, I now consider skipping out on that opportunity to be a mistake.
The film, directed by Teddy Chan, focuses on a group of Hong Kong revolutionaries looking to protect Sun Wen (Zhang Hanyu), who is the leader of the revolution that is overthrowing the Qing Dynasty. The Qing Dynasty sent assassins, led by Yan Xiaoguo (Hu Jun), to kill Sun Wen. The amount of characters introduced, the many plot points that are introduced, and how everything is developed is directed with great balance and unbelievable ease by Chan. With so many important elements going on at once, Chan manages to keep the viewer focused, providing constant clarity.
Chan should receive a majority of the credit for keeping everything in order, but the cast also creates relatable characters. The primary draw for western audiences will be the fact that Donnie Yen is in the film, along with MMA star Cung Le (who was also in the recent straight-to-DVD film “Tekken”), yet there are some incredibly strong performances from actors western audiences may not be as familiar with. Xueqi Wang provides an outstanding performance as Li Yutang, who is a businessman that backs the revolution and then becomes one of its key supporters. Along with Nicholas Tse, Tony Leung Ka
Fai, Leon Lai and Simon Yam, the film is stacked with incredibly talented actors that provide a range of emotions in their roles.
The action is well done, but occasionally comes off as unrealistic and cartoony, like the fight scene between Donnie Yen and Cung Le. The two break through walls and there is some wirework on display, but the action does not quite fit with the rest of the film. These scenes are entertaining, as they are well choreographed and entertaining fights. But they seem somewhat out of place.
With excellent action sequences, well-written characters, and pitch-perfect directing, “Bodyguards and Assassins,” was a complete pleasure to view. It may have taken a lot of time and effort for this film to become a reality, but at the end of the day, it is a great experience to watch this film.