Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Hodgepodge of 'Bodyguards and Assassins'

I am not a movie puff.

I know it does not sound right when I headed for for another movie just two days after Avatar (See Avatar - An Epic of a New Kind). This time, from a futuristic high-tech epic, I moved on to a period blood-and-flesh type.

So, what do you get when you fit heavyweight artistes Tony Leung, Fan Bing Bing, Leon Lai, Jacky Cheung, Eric Tsang, Simon Yam, Nicholas Tse and Donnie Yen into one single movie?

The answer is "Bodyguards and Assassins".

"Bodyguards and Assassins" (十月围城) is a 140-minute Mandarin movie directed by Teddy Chen with a budget of $23mil. In a nutshell, the movie is, err...well, about "bodyguards" and "assassins". What else?

If you may allow me to elaborate (spoiler alert), "Bodyguards and Assassins" tells a story 105 years ago in Hong Kong. The center of the story is the famous Dr Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) who is known as Sun Wen in the movie. He was the Chinese revolutionary leader who played an instrumental role in overthrowing the Qing Dynasty in Oct 1911.

The storyline is actually very straightforward: the bodyguards and the assassins have the same target ie. Sun Wen. One group wants him dead badly and the other dies to keep him alive. In between, you have the indifferent Hong Kong police force who works for the British colonial master.

In 1905, Sun Wen has to attend an important meeting in Hong Kong. He needs to gather support for a revolution against the corrupt Qing rulers.
Empress Dowager Cixi sends a group of assassins to kill him while another group of supporters in Hong Kong bands together to fight against the assassins.

All the actions take place over a few days before the meeting and climax on that fateful day, 15 Oct. Within that short span of time, many people die. I would want to caution that the movie is rather violent, just in case you are misguided by the mild Singapore "PG" rating. I understand that it is rated "18SG" in Malaysia and "R16" in New Zealand.

Sun Wen is a well known historical figure but his presence in the movie is very brief. Surely I can accept that because the title is "Bodyguards and Assassins" and not "Sun Wen and His Bodyguards".

After many rounds of intensive fighting, the scene turns calm towards the end of the movie. Sun Wen wraps up his meeting by sharing his revolution philosophy with his supporters. He has said it movingly but not enough to justify all the dramatic deaths of so many.

After 140 minutes, I was unable to feel the calling of the brave bodyguards who fight (to me, mindlessly) to protect Sun Wen.

As a historical fiction, the storyline cannot possibly stray too far. However, if you are a stickler for historical accuracies, this movie might just have what it takes to irritate you.

If you are a Chinese kungfu fanatic, do not expect any Jacky Chan or Jet Li geeks. However, if you enjoy violent heroism, you will get a good dose of gore.

If you are a fan of Tony Leung, Leon Lai, Jacky Cheung, Eric Tsang, Simon Yam, Nicholas Tse, Donnie Yen and many more, you will get your value for money seeing them being featured in turn like in a talent show.

If you love drama, this movie does not offer much. There are some intended emotional moments but my nerves hardly responded to them.

To wrap up, this movie is a hodgepodge of action, drama and history, with a generous dosage of superstars. You may not like everything but quite likely, you would like something. The official site and official trailer will tell you more.

Verdict: Go watch it but do not take the content too seriously.

~Sun Wen's line in "Bodyguard and Assassins"~

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