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Bodyguards and Assassins More at IMDbPro »Shi yue wei cheng (original title)

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41 out of 59 people found the following review useful:

Thoughtful, character driven, and highly awesome

Author: Matt-60 from Los Angeles, CA
25 January 2010

Just had the pleasure of watching this, I had heard good things about it and when it popped up on a torrent site I leaped at the chance. Please note, I don't support piracy and downloading, but since this is not available stateside yet my options are limited. Needless to say, this one is a buy for sure on DVD, hopefully there will be a blu ray release with good subtitles at some point. This is a star studded period action film about the assassination attempt of Dr Sun Yat Sen in Hong Kong. The first hour of this movie is entirely about setting up the characters, making you understand them and care about them. In fact there is only one action scene in the first hour, which existed to drive the plot and define the motivation of the woman who would become one of the bodyguards. Don't worry, the kung fu awesomeness will begin, the entire second half of the movie is one very well done action sequence after another. But the set up really matters here, it is very engaging and later on when all these characters come together to protect Dr Sen, you care about each one and when some die, you feel it. The acting is excellent all around, many of the actors are major stars, such as Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse, Leon Lai, and Tony Leung Ka Fai, but the film is an ensemble piece and each star disappears into their character, many of whom are playing against type. The action is top notch, as expected with Donnie Yen's involvement. Yen has a brutal fight with Cung Le that involves some very nice choreography and some parkour action as well. All of these scenes are enhanced by the fact that you care quite a bit if this character lives or dies. My only complaint would be the villain, played by Red Cliff's Jun Hu. I felt his character was a little over the top, I would have liked him to have been more in control. But it is a minor quibble in a film with a great many strengths. I highly recommend this one, check it out.

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25 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

Powerful, logical and heartbreaking.

Author: Mortin from Hungary
18 February 2010

First of all, I'm not familiar with Chinese history, so I wouldn't say anything about its historical bases. Still, this movie worth the time with no doubt. No matter where you live.

Powerful, logical and heartbreaking. I say powerful because we got a well painted picture about the main characters in the first half. Yes, the movie does not only focus on the high profile action scenes and blood. That's one of its strengths. The audience - this time it's me - had enough time to acquaint the persons and like them. For this reason losing some of them is a heartbreaking effect in the second half. I think it's not a spoiler. Anyone can guess it who has seen the trailer. The acting is OK (some actors were great, especially Xueqi Wang) but my opinion is that the script and the director have done this movie for that it is. I really enjoyed that the movie has avoid to use mindless clichés, like ultimate fight of good vs. evil. The main bad character had also deep conviction that he has been doing the right thing for his country/highness. As it is so, for me, he was authentic in his role.

Now there's only one word has to be explained - logical. Unfortunately I can't do it without revealing some moments from the story, so I leave it to you. Find it out yourself. If you like heroic tales, you should love it.

I hope this movie will be released on DVD in my country, too.

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18 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Truly top-notch

Author: Harry T. Yung ( from Hong Kong
24 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

People who are particular about genre and such things have been trying to decide whether this is a historical drama or action thriller. I'd just call it a marvellous movie. The important thing is that for an action movie to be really engaging, it has to be rooted on a solid plot. Otherwise, the action looks pointless. B&A is an excellent example of how story and action complement each other.

The plot may sound a little stretched, if you challenge the details, but it's the overall spirit that really matters. The story is wonderfully simple: Dr Sun Yat-sen, "father of modern China", came to British colony Hong Kong in the beginning of the 20th Century, for just one morning to meet a dozen revolutionaries from all over China to plan a major insurgence to overthrow the Qing imperial dynasty and form the first republic in China. Waiting for him is an army of assassins deployed from the imperial palace. He needed an hour with the fellow revolutionaries and that hour was critical because it would lay a foundation for a successful revolution. In order to provide him with the best possible chance of success, the local revolutionaries set up a decoy with a double going all over town, including visiting his aged mother. The first 80 minutes set up the story and established the characters; the last hour is all gut-spilling action.

The first part, lacking in action notwithstanding, is consistently engaging, establishing on the macro level the historical backdrop and on a micro level the characters (more about them later) in a fashion reminiscent of Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai". The palpable tension on the other hand will bring to mind "High Noon". The second part is simply the best action you've seen anywhere, period. Even more important is that this is not fighting just for the sake of fighting, but for a course established with heartfelt dedication, through characters that you will unreservedly root for. There'll be not a few heart-wrenching moments, be warned.

There is an entire spectrum of interesting characters, presented with various degrees of depth, as appropriate. I'm not going to mention all, or even a majority of them. The interesting thing is that they are all in this for different motivations. On the villains' side, we have the attention demanding HU Jun playing the chief assassin. Ironically, this is the most "Hollywood" of the characters, a nationalist fanatic to psychopathic proportions. I'm sure if you think hard, you can name half a dozen such ones from Hollywood war or war-related movies.

On the other side, all the heroes have distinct personalities and different motivations. The golden-hearted simple giant cum ex-Shoaling monk cum street snack vendor is there to "fight the bad guys" and that's good enough for him. Young rickshaw "chauffer" Ah Si doesn't know anything about how the greater world works but is willing to lay down his life any time for his kind-hearted employers who treat him like their family. Young girl Fang Hung is there to follow the footsteps of her father, a revolutionary who just died in the hands of the assassins. The odd ball top martial expert who has degenerated to a beggar because of a woman sees this adventure (including death) as a way to escape his never-ending agony of self-pity and remorse. The compulsive gambler and fortune seeker who does anything for money finally does the only thing right in his life because of love for his ex-wife and estranged 8-year-old daughter. None of these people are initially motivated by noble revolutionary goals and yet it does not take anything away from their heroic deeds and sacrifices – thus is the magic wielded by the movie makers.

There are of course the good guys, the true revolutionaries, but as I said, I'm not going to try to cover all the characters. What must be said, however, is that the show belongs to WANG Xueqi, who portrays the character with most depth, a tycoon who starts out as a cautious financial contributor to the revolutionary course but refusing to have anything more to do with it. Conflict with his son who is dedicated to the course brings about a gradual change in him, eventually into an "ordinary hero". If you have seen Wang's performance in "Forever Entralled" (2008) you know the impeccable standard that you are entitled to expect from this actor, and he meets every bit of that expectation here.

Set, editing, camera work, action direction all become an integral part of this top-notch motion picture, which must be recognized as among the very best of Chinese language motion pictures in recent memory.

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13 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Excellent film!

Author: Max Mooney ( from Honolulu, HI
29 May 2010

I had the pleasure (but discomfort) of watching this on the plane from Taipei to Bangkok and have never been so engrossed in an in-flight movie. It was heartbreaking and exciting and, although perhaps slightly out of place, the action sequences were excellent. The acting was great and this may well be my favorite film so far this year. I am unaware as to how accurate the story is but I would bet it is much closer to reality than most "Based on a True Story"-type films. Another reviewer said they were expecting a Hong Kong "Gangs of New York" and I think it does fall somewhere near this but I would rewatch this film 100 times before watching "Gangs" again... this is mostly due to Cameron Diaz's atrocious performance. I hope this film receives a subtitled release on DVD as I will definitely want to add it to my collection.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

hugely watchable

Author: thisissubtitledmovies from
9 December 2010

excerpt, more at my location - When introducing Bodyguards And Assassins – a film based around the real life actions of his grandfather, Peter Sun was asked to comment on the historical accuracy of the film. A laugh went around the auditorium, perhaps filled with veterans of previous Donnie Yen films. Peter Sun laughed, too. Clearly, in bringing the film to the big screen, some embellishments had to be made. Bad news perhaps for scholars of Chinese political history, but great news for fans of martial arts cinema.

In saying this, Peter Sun effectively conceded that Bodyguards And Assassins is not really a film about his grandfather. Dr Sun appears in the film only briefly. But through the skilled interweaving of political thriller and Chinese hero myth, the film succeeds in conveying his importance, in the willingness of ordinary and extra-ordinary people alike to sacrifice everything for his success. In that, Bodyguards And Assassins is not just a hugely watchable martial arts experience, but a surprisingly effective vehicle for a political subtext that echoes in China to this day.

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13 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

More than just an action film this is a movie with characters who break your heart

Author: dbborroughs from Glen Cove, New York
31 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Set in 1906 this is the story of a bunch of revolutionaries in Hong Kong looking to make China a democratic nation no longer under corrupt feudal rule. To that end the seek to protect Mr Sun (Sun Yat-Sen) who is coming into Hong Kong in order to meet with the heads of the various revolutionary groups in all of the provinces. Unfortunately his arrival is known by the ruling Chinese authorities and they have sent a team of assassins into the British controlled city to kill him. Our heroes must assemble a team of men to get Mr Sun from the boat to the meeting and then to distract the assassins while the meeting takes place.

This refreshing mix of drama, action and politics is the first great film I've seen in 2010. I might argue that its one of the high echelon of action films for reasons other than just the spectacular fight sequences.

Perhaps I should begin by saying that the film is essentially divided into two parts. The first half of the film is a very character heavy, mostly light on action stretch where we get to know the characters, their backgrounds and their reasons for doing what they are doing. Unlike most action films there really isn't a clichéd character in the bunch. All are human beings, all of them want a better place. Because the film doesn't jump into the action but takes the time to not only build the characters, but to set up the situation, the film creates a huge amount of tension by the time Mr Sun arrives and the rag tag bunch has to try and keep him alive. This second half of the film is pretty much an hour plus long set piece as the various characters fight to stay alive. Its an hour that will exhaust you.

The film works primarily because we have real characters. This is due in part to the casting of 15 big name actors Donnie Yen, Eric Tsang and Simon Yam among them. Normally the casting of so many actors can work against a film, but here it adds weight and makes the vast number of characters more easily recognizable. Better than the casting in the writing which allows for many small moments that add nice shading to everyone in the tale. The rick shaw driver who quietly tinkles his bell so the lady he loves will look up, Donnie Yen and the little girl, the flashes of wishes and the past. All these little moments come together so that we're watching a bunch of characters who make us hurt when something bad happens to them. When was the last time that you were so invested in bunch of characters that you actually feared for them in a film? Everything that happened made me wince. These are characters that pay a heavy price for what they do and we feel it.

I know some people are not happy with the overt political message of the film. This is a film that wears what it feels on its sleeve. The point of the film is that in order to be free one must shake off the shackles of oppression and that the pain of today is for the happiness of tomorrows children. Some people don't like the message because its coming from a film that was made under the watchful eye of the Chinese government, however the statement that what we do today to assure freedom is not just a message for the people in China, its a message for everyone everywhere. Its a call for vigilance and for action anywhere in the world. The film says flat out that the struggle for your rights today will hurt, but if you are successful your children will have a better place. Its not specifically aimed toward any philosophy beyond the general promise of freedom, which makes me kind of wonder why people are unhappy about it.

In all honesty if it wasn't for the intensity of the politics the film wouldn't work as well. The politics, right or wrong, provides the reason for the events to unfold. Why are you doing this? The reason is the politics. Even the intensity that drives the final hour, the need to have this meeting for freedom, comes from the politics and the desire to be truly free.

The reason many people are going to watch this film is the action. Outside of one battle early on and one or two small moments nothing really happens until the second half. When the explosion of violence happens its pretty much an hour of solid fighting as the bad guys try to kill the good guys in every way possible (knives, fists, arrows, guns, explosions). There are pauses but thats just waiting for the next wave. This final hour takes place on a huge street set that recreates a large chunk of the Hong Kong water front area. Its put to good use as we watch as the cast winds their way all through it.

Its amazing Its also heartbreaking since not everyone lives and as I said you feel each death as it happens. By the time it all breaks loose these are no longer characters on the screen but friends, with the result that what happens has so much more added weight. By the end of the film I felt broken. This is the rarest of action films, not only are you affected by what happens to each character, but you also fear for what might happen. Its never really clear what will happen, and the film is so much better for it.

For the most part this film is a masterpiece. Easily one of the best films of the year. Its so much more than a drama or a political film or an action film. It is something else, simply a great film.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Martial Arts, History and Depth

Author: SirJun from United Kingdom
8 December 2010

This is NOT Hollywood type Kick-Ass. This is NOT an Arty House of Daggeers.

This is a historical drama with some neat kung-fu thrown in. Beautiful to look at. From the elegance of the costumes to the dirty streets in the ghetto.

Bodyguards and Assassins has charm, tragedy, drama, loyalty, respect, ignorance and more going for it. Slightly long but thoroughly enjoyable.

I was unaware of this part of Chinas history (boy do the English come off bad yet again) and I'm glad I watched it.

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Spectacular cast and atmosphere, action is secondary

Author: chrismsawin from United States
31 July 2011

Whenever I find myself getting lost in conversations with other people about martial arts films one of the guys that always seems to get glossed over is Donnie Yen. He's just as good as the Bruce Lees, the Jackie Chans, the Jet Lis, and Tony Jaas out there, but for some reason he's just never really been able to click with the mainstream. Yen seemed to stick around wuxia films longer than the names you probably associate with these types of movies and extravagant wirework is usually the first thing to make an action film feel mediocre to me. People can't fly around, run on the tips of blades of grass, or kick people seventeen times in the air before landing on their feet and doing it all over again; the more realistic an action film is the more enjoyable it is to me. But ever since Hero (yes it's a wuxia film, but it's one of the exceptions), Donnie Yen has put out some really fantastic action films that are either more grounded or the wirework involved is a lot more subtle. Kill Zone and Flash Point were two of the films that made me love the guy's work and Ip Man is easily one of my favorite martial arts films of all time. Most Yen projects not only have spectacular action sequences, but have an engaging story to tell as well and that's something action films like this usually don't bother trying to do. Bodyguards and Assassins just tends to focus more on the dramatic side of things rather than just punch you in the face, kick you in the gut, and move on to the next action scene.

Bodyguards and Assassins is a bit misleading. It's marketed as this martial arts epic and it really isn't. It's actually incredibly similar to 13 Assassins in the way that nearly all of the action is in the last hour of the movie. Most of the movie is spent planning Sun Wen's arrival. The movie takes place during the early 1900s when plans were set into motion to try and overthrow the Qing Dynasty which had become corrupt. Sun Wen was the man believed to be the revolutionary and first step toward that goal. So while many Chinese are willing to step up to the cause and see China become a democracy, there are others who want China to remain the way it is; some want to protect him while many want to kill him. This movie is even more of a slow burn than 13 Assassins was. A man gets shot in the opening scene, there's a brief fight scene where more characters get killed, but the rest of the first hour of the film is very dialogue heavy that is sure to make action junkies itch for their fix.

The other misleading part of the film is Donnie Yen getting top billing. He does play a key supporting role, but is probably only around on-screen for thirty to forty minutes. His character is probably the most well-developed though. Yen is Sum Chang-Yang; a compulsive gambler who will do anything for money. His wife left him after their daughter was born because she didn't want to see their child have the same fate as her father. He's basically a lowlife the entire movie until he has the opportunity to make something of himself and finally gets to see his daughter up close. Then it's as if his entire life was spent waiting for this moment and he decides he shouldn't waste it. So while Yen does make the most of his screen time, he's secondary to the bigger issue at hand.

Bodyguards and Assassins falls victim to shaky camera techniques during a good portion of the fight scenes. The technique is probably used to make the viewer feel closer to the action, but it just doesn't work. It makes you miss more of the action rather than make you feel like you're a part of it. The other disappointment is that there is quite a lot of CG blood in the movie. Most of the blood that makes it to the ground is obviously made with practical effects, but all of it that flies into the air is computer generated. CG blood just gives a movie like this a cartoonish feel, when it's supposed to be taken seriously.

The last hour does have at least two scenes to try and make up for that wordy first hour. There's a chase scene that evolves into a fight scene involving Donnie Yen in the marketplace that is exactly what you've been craving since the movie began. It's probably Yen's crowning achievement in the movie. Leon Lai plays a beggar in the film named Liu Yubai who was outcast from his rich family after falling in love with his father's woman. He uses a metal fan when he fights and he's extremely skilled with it. His action scene is quite spectacular as well and it nearly trumps Yen's.

Bodyguards and Assassins is not a bad film by any means; it's very story driven, has an excellent cast, and delivers an incredibly powerful message. But labeling it solely as an action film seems really unfair. It's a historical drama featuring some action sequences. Impatient viewers may turn the film off before it really has the chance to take off while a shaky camera and CG blood does bring the movie down a notch or two, but there is light at the end of that tunnel for martial arts admirers. Donnie Yen fans may also be slightly disappointed once they realize Yen only has a supporting role. Nevertheless Bodyguards and Assassins is a riveting drama with an unbelievable climax that captures the look and feel of Hong Kong during the early 1900s in exquisite fashion.

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11 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

There Will Be Blood

Author: samuelding85 from Singapore
20 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Bodyguards and Assassins is a fictional story about the assassination of Dr Sun Yat Sun, who overthrow the corrupted Chinese Qing government during the early 20th century. Though there are no accounts in the history to back up the story, it has well reflected on how the then Qing government wanted to protect themselves and their refusal of accepting the existence of the rising Western power by getting rid of anyone who tried to threaten the Qing government's position in the politics.

Produced by Peter Chan Ho-Sun and directed by Teddy Chan (Downtown Torpedos, 1997; The Accidental Spy, 2001), the streets of Hong Kong in the early 20th century were created specially for Bodyguards and Assassins, which provides the audience with a sense of realism, and also to match the background of the story. This is one of the few Hong Kong and China productions which group several veteran actors and A-listed casts into the movie. The casts can be classified into two groups, namely the bodyguards and the assassins.

Businessman Li Yu Tang (Wang Xueqi) financially supported Dr Sun's revolution, with the assistance of Chen Shao Bai (Tony Leung Kar Fai), the founder of The China Times newspaper agency. Using the agency as the secret meeting ground, they recruited rickshaw puller Si (Nicholas Tse), hawker Ming (Basketball star Barter), beggar Bai (Leon Lai) and Hong (Li Yuchun), the daughter of former general Fang (Simon Yam), who was assassinated by Empress Dowager Cixi's assassins. When Yu Tang's only son, Chong Guan (Wang Bo Jie) enroll himself into the protection of Dr Sun, Yu Tang was forced to protect him at any cost. On the other side, Cixi ordered official Yan Xiaoguo (Hu Jun) to lead the assassination. With the assistance of Yang (Donnie Yen), a gambler, Yan comes with a perfect plan for the assassination, until Yang decided to risk his life to protect Dr Sun under the persuasion of his former wife (Fan Bingbing), who married herself to Yu Tang.

The trailer of Bodyguards and Assassins sells the movie as a form of martial art movie, which one will expect to be a full 2 hours 19 minutes martial art thriller. However, it would not make sense to drag all actions into a 2 hour film, while the incident takes only an hour. Thus, a clear description of the relationship between all the people involved in the protection and assassination were clearly explained to the point in the first hours. This helps to pave the way to the next hour, which supports the chaos that took place in Hong Kong upon the arrival of Dr Sun, where Chen believes that the journey will be paved with blood. This supports a line featured in the film: Revolution means sacrifice. The road to salvation is paved with blood.

One will tend to expect all the casts given equal share of appearances in the movie. However, the movie will mainly focus on Tang, Bai and Yan. The plot expands further and the rest of the cast will be introduced slowly, where their relationships intervene with each other. This is slightly different from the usual China/Hong Kong blockbusters, where A-listed casts are given heavier roles to expand. With Hong Kong pop sensation Jacky Cheung making a special appearance at the opening scene, it makes one feeling it is worth taking a trip down to the cinema to catch the show.

It is not often Asian cinema will get a piece of fantastic historical productions which boasts A-listed casts and veteran actors together, and also gives the story a deep rooted details to the point to make the movie much more easier to digest. So skip the year end popcorn trash and give this a hit. One will not regret spending their time in the cinema for a production worth what they paid for.

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12 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Doesn't know what sort of movie it wants to be.

Author: Karl Udy from Hong Kong
16 March 2010

I had been looking forward to seeing this movie as the advertising had billed it as something of a period epic, something along the lines of a Hong Kong "Gangs of New York".

I have to say that the sets and reconstruction of 1906 Hong Kong were very good, but there were some occasions where the matte backgrounds didn't quite gel with the foreground.

The story on the whole was very good, with the key characters either learning or demonstrating the link between sacrifice and revolution. However I think this movie loses effectiveness by trying to do too much.

For a film such as this which tries to be a historical epic, the wire-fu stunts look incredibly out of place. It would have been far more effective to keep the stunts grounded in reality. The wire-fu stunts work well in films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero where there is an element of fantasy to the whole story. For a story that is purportedly a historical account all it serves to do is remind the viewer that he is watching a movie, not real events.

I also found the inclusion of Mengke Bateer off-putting. A seven-foot Chinese in 1906 Hong Kong doesn't seem very believable to me. I suspect that he was put there to get a few cheap jokes, as the character would have been just as believable as a six-foot well-built person.

These may seem like minor issues, but for me they detracted from what could have been a truly excellent film.

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