Bodyguards and Assassins is set in Hong Kong in the year 1906 and tells of an assassination plot against Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the revolutionary who led the opposition grounds that overthrew the Qing dynasty and founded the Republic of China. The director takes his time to develop characters, position them carefully within a clear historical context and fully explore their relationship to each other and personal politics, before letting them off the leash to wreak bloody havoc.
China’s film market is entering its annual peak season, which runs over the New Year and Spring Festival holidays. Dozens of movies will be competing in the next two months. I suppose that is why a big Donnie Yen blockbuster is being released right now. The problem with an ensemble piece like this is ensuring that enough screen time is given to each character. Donnie Yen as mercenary gambler was the main actor of the movie. His fight with Chung Le provided one of the major set action piece but somehow it was not as good as Ip Man. In short, this was no revolutionary piece of filmmaking.
I would categorize this film as a political drama. The movie was quite violent but educated. The bravo talk about the meaningful of Revolution and democracy to sweep away corruption and oppression which has change the history of China. Many of the emotional scenes are heavy-handed and come off as trying way too hard to wring tears from the audience. Fortunately, the first half of exposition introduces enough involving characters and situations that it’s more than effective in getting audience emotionally involved in the story.
If you haven’t seen this film and are anticipating it, make sure you don’t read any spoilers. As part of an ingenious promotional gimmick, the director has kept the Sun Yat-sen actor a secret. I thought this was a nice touch and for action fans, this has a lot to offer you as well. 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. The storyline was quite straight and direct, not much confusion and the connection between different characters were displayed nicely since the start of the movie where you could really focus on other things. In conclusion, though I said I thought it was clever to place emphasis on storytelling and character development in what is otherwise a purebred action flick, the film fails in its attempt to deliver genuine emotions. For me, this is unacceptable when pertaining to a drama piece.