No time to go to the cinema this weekend which is a little gutting, so instead I watched the tail end of a film I was enjoying on the flight back from Bangkok a few weeks ago.
OK, it’s a cheesy sounding title, but the film itself is anything but. It’s a high-budget Chinese effort set back in colonial Hong Kong at the turn of last century. I am not an expert on Chinese cinema, but by all accounts the cast is impressive (they certainly impressed me!) and the director, Teddy Chen, is renowned – deservedly so for this effort.
As I said, I’m not a huge expert in the field of Asian cinema. Most of my experience is in early Jackie Chan stuff, although the recent Red Cliff was absolutely spellbinding and proof that our friends out east can compete with Hollywood when they put their minds (and money) to it. Bodyguards and Assassins looks every bit as good – better, frankly – than many US films. The sets, costumes and so forth are simply wonderful. The production values are up there with any BBC period drama.
The story also, is gripping and based on a tempestuous time in Hong Kong’s history as civil unrest around the colonial grip is bubbling. Many of the characters are based on people who lived – and died – in this period.
In brief, a man called Sun Wen is to visit Hong Kong. He is a resistance leader there to discuss plans for revolution. The emperor of the day sends a band of assassins to kill him and prevent an uprising. The film focuses on the people in the city who support him, those who fall in with them and their attempts to get him to his rally and back out again alive.
For a film which received a lot of press for it’s action stars and sequences, the fights do take some time in coming, but the final 40 minutes or so are set piece after set piece. The slow build up is hugely worth it as we find out a lot about the characters and their reasons for believing in Sun Wen. As it all comes to a head he, along with decoys, is barrelled through the streets of Hong Kong in a fleet of covered rickshaws. The emperor’s assassins try to kill him as the freedom fighters attempt to stay one step ahead.
There are a couple of wire-worked scenes which I’m not a huge fan of, but there’s no doubting the skill and hard work put into making the fight scenes otherwise authentic. They’re fairly bloody without being excessively gory so shouldn’t upset those interested in watching it as a period piece.
I confess to finding the story a little hard to follow, partly due to the characters looking a little samey, but I was very tired on a flight for most of it – and the screens on the back of those seats aren’t big. Still, I was drawn in and enjoyed the story enough to get hold of a copy when I got home to see the end.
Definitely worth checking out, and ensure you get a subtitled version not a dubbed one!