Bodyguards and assassins

I went to see “Bodyguards and Assassins” last night at the Oriental Plaza cinema in Wangfujing. Something felt wrong… until I realized that this was the first time I’d visited the cinema since coming to China, and it’s warm inside! (In Singapore, the cinemas always turn their aircon so low, you can practically see your breath!)

The movie was in Mandarin (duh!) and had no English subtitles. S. could understand it perfectly, of course; for the talky first part I treated it as an improv exercise, imagining an alternative dialogue. In the second part… well… you didn’t really need to know what anyone was saying!

If you don’t know what the film is about, it deals with a 1905 visit to Hong Kong by Chinese revolutionary (and future president of the Chinese Republic), Sun Yat-Sen. Ostensibly, he was there to visit his mother; in reality, he was there to meet fellow revolutionaries. The Dowager Empress and the Qing court, sensing opportunity, dispatch a company of assassins… In Hong Kong, a disparate band of warriors and workers agree to act as bodyguards for Sun…

OK, let’s cut to the chase: spoilers ahead.

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Still here? OK. Pretty much everyone dies, except Sun. It’s a great film. There’s one scene in which a few of Sun’s supporters are hiding out in Sun’s house, while outside one of the bodyguards (a Daoist monk turned beggar) battles overwhelming numbers of Qing assassins. Sun’s aged mother silently holds the hand of one young man who knows he’s going to be killed if the assassins get through, and tries valiantly to conceal his terror. I found it very moving…

There’s a spectacular scene of parkour, as one each of the bodyguards and assassins fight a running battle through a bustling Hong Kong street – demonstrating exactly why I think I should learn parkour! Maybe next year…

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though I had no idea what anybody was saying. S. tells me that it’s based on historical fact, though I can’t Google anything up to support that. It make you laugh, it makes you sad, it keeps you on the edge of your seat plenty…

Recommended.

4 Comments

  1. Erm… from what I understood from the film, the beggar (the bodyguard outside Sun’s house fighting with the iron fan) used to be a rich man’s son. He became a beggar and lost his family fortune after he fell in love with his father’s concubine – his father died from a cardiac arrest and the concubine killed herself in front of him.

    And I thoroughly enjoyed the film. You might want to check out other films acted by Donnie Yen which have great action sequences… Iron Monkey… Flash Point… Dragon Tiger Gate…

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    1. Ah well, remember that I’m talking about the ‘alternative dialogue’! I couldn’t follow the actual backstory for this guy at all. There’s a moment when he’s balancing on a post, and the camera zooms in on his feet, and I thought “Oh, those are Daoist monk’s shoes”. Your explanation explains his final vision, though, I guess. Trying to understand plot points through fashion observations is probably a non-starter. Eeew, those hooks, though….. Ouch!

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  2. Well, I had the benefit of English subtitles đŸ™‚ and yes, the cinema was freezing. So many of the characters died.. it was quite sad.

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  3. How time flies. It’s now 2011 and yet another of Donnie Yen’s movies is showing. This time it is Wu Xia (also starring Takashi and Tang Wei). The selling point of the film is the illustrations of how pressure point fighting affects the human system (erm more accurately, causes the death of the opponent).

    Since it’s rated NC16, I’d probably get the DVD when it is released.

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