Shi yue wei cheng (2009) Poster

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Thoughtful, character driven, and highly awesome
Matt-6025 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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Powerful, logical and heartbreaking.
Mortin18 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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Excellent film!
Max Mooney29 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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Truly top-notch
Harry T. Yung24 December 2009
Warning: 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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hugely watchable
thisissubtitledmovies9 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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Martial Arts, History and Depth
SirJun8 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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More than just an action film this is a movie with characters who break your heart
dbborroughs31 January 2010
Warning: 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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Doesn't know what sort of movie it wants to be.
Karl Udy16 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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There Will Be Blood
samuelding8520 December 2009
Warning: 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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Spectacular cast and atmosphere, action is secondary
chrismsawin31 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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Twisting the Threads into a Rope
dont_b_so_BBC17 December 2009
How do you make a movie based on a known/historical event worth anyone's while, when the final outcome is already well-established? Well, the answer that "Bodyguards & Assassins" provides is: not "with lots of new twists", but "with lots of heart". That's right, this is fully-commercialized blockbuster film-making at its most sincere-- where the previews were reporting how often it made test audiences cry.

I mean, with the casting of 12 named stars (each of whom could have headlined their own movie), the building of a full-scaled outdoor historical set, and an array of prize-winning martial-artists/ action-choreographers, etc.-- this film is about as "gimmicky" and "review-proof" as movies can get. But the cast strives to put their roles before their persona and become masters of the "wordless stare", the set stays quietly in the background without any panoramic sweeps of the camera, and the fighting is mostly shown in short, brutal bursts... which means audiences unwilling to read subtitles or do some research should just skip it-- since it packs an emotional punch rather than a visual one.

Make no mistake,"Bodyguards & Assassins" is almost the complete antithesis of the "mindless action movie" (the "thoughtful" action movie?)-- in fact, action sequences get "cut-off" at every opportunity just to remind you who and what these people are fighting for... so that the violence is always awashed with the tragedy, not thrill, of witnessing the "march of history" (as historical fiction, there's no real question as to who lives and who dies in the end).

Having realized from the box-office and critical success of "The Warlords" (2007) that the Chinese audience is a thinking one (i.e. Chinese blockbusters can be mentally "engaging"), the production team decided to pack a quintessentially Chinese socio-political melodrama into a historical tear-jerking actioner-- presenting the events of 15 October 1905, Hong Kong as the bitter fuse that sparked off the next 6 consecutive years of rebellions (occuring after end of the movie) leading to the fall of the Qing Dynasty. In fact, the script is so solid that you might find yourself wanting more of the drama than the action-- because the movie is paced/ structured as an unrelenting series of ever-tightening expositions (& related fighting) that reveals more and more about the people and the "fin de siecle" that is the real heart of this film... before all the build-up is gently released with a teary eye and a few end-titles.

Such an approach should have been doomed from the start, but the accomplished film-makers (much like the historical figures in the movie) mostly managed to weave all the disparate elements into an ensemble act that is not dominated or resolved by "leave-your-brain-at-the-door" action set-pieces or CGI eye-candy. The historical setting called up a whole host of period clichés, while the varied casting and side-stories drew attention to any uneven acting and editing-- but the expert directing and sharp dialog made 3-dimensional characters out of 2-dimensional stereotypes, while veteran actors Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Wang Xue-Qi ably anchored the film as a rhetoric-spewing revolutionary ("The day of reckoning is here!") and his reluctant financial-backer ("how much money do you need this time?"). There are some production flaws with less-than perfect make-up, CGI, etc.-- which are expected (& understandable) in Asian productions... but there is also an air of "authenticity".

So this is an "action" movie to watch, if you feel like having a good cry-- over all the little people who contributed to the success of the 1911 Revolution... unless you actually need the movie to tell you who Sun Yat-sen is, which means you are not really its target audience. This is Chinese cinema going back to its good old roots of tapping into the collective memory of its blood-stained history-- and digging out a few more shades of gray.
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A Nutshell Review: Bodyguards and Assassins
DICK STEEL17 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I can't remember the last time I watched a film which dealt with a Dr Sun Yat-sen character, or one that was set on the verge of a major Manchu Qing Dynasty and the Revolutionary's clash of ideology and politics, with a fictionalized account of an historical milestone, with real life characters being thrust into a make-believe fantasy world of martial arts. Perhaps Tsui Hark's Once Upon a Time in China II came close, where Jet Li's Wong Fei Hong got involved with a proxy for Dr Sun, and went up against the evil Manchus led by Donnie Yen, who incidentally, is in this film as well as a mercenary.

In that film, emphasis was placed on the pocket watch, and the significance of time, where it was a race to keep a secret ledger out of the Manchu's hands, which registers all the identities of the Revolutionaries in waiting. Here, the same motif gets played out again, with the time piece being the emphasis once more as the highlight is the second act of the film, which plays out in almost real time, an entire hour where a rag tag team of hastily assembled exponents have to protect Dr Sun, whom none of them have any inkling of his significance and the ideological plans that he has brought to Hong Kong, from a group of Manchu martial arts experts led by Chinese actor Hu Jun, who has of late been playing villainous roles.

And that 60 minute action extravaganza is one of the most exhilarating fight-fest that you're going to see coming from a Chinese film this year, where every individual battle sequence is uniquely crafted, with the multi-million dollar set production providing that extra dimension of a real brawl on open streets, from rooftop mêlées and trishaws as both an offensive and defensive weapon, to crowded five foot way parkour, right down to suave swordsman like moves as executed from an unrecognizable Leon Lai. It's only a pity though that to cater to a broad audience over here, some of the more violent bits had to be unceremoniously snipped. The trade off for this is well, there's some Cantonese that was able to make it through, although the Pan-Chinese production meant that Chinese was to be predominantly spoken (Simon Yam was dubbed throughout).

Minor complaints aside, it's 16 Blocks meets Seven Samurai, where Dr Sun's trishaw entourage scuttles through the streets of Hong Kong, playing it out like a video game where the Manchu assassins go up against boss after boss of different skills at various pit stops, with each exponent providing ample stand-off time for Dr Sun to make his escape, or to buy time for certain meetings to happen. It's a sacrificial of self for the greater good of the community at large, knowing the dangers involved, with the hopes of a new future pinned to the survival of one charismatic man.

This sense of danger gets wonderfully epitomized by Tony Leung's Revolutionary, and The Tycoon played by Wang Xueqi, who are the mastermind and one of the main sources of funding respectively, as they go about recruiting men for their cause. In fact, Wang Xueqi almost single-handedly made the first act watchable thanks to his gravitas and screen presence. His tycoon undergoes a period of awakening where inaction, or the thought of action through the simple, relatively pain-free means of finance, has to give way to some form of concrete action, and the father-son arc here remains one of the strongest amongst the narrative.

Interesting subplots get bandied around the first act, which provided ample time to allow some degree of characterization amongst the ensemble cast, such as Leon Lai's Beggar who is pining after a lost love in 2046 style (with Michelle Reis in that Maggie Cheung equivalent cameo), Nicholas Tse as the affable, simple-minded Richshaw Man who pledges loyalty to the Tycoon as his son (Wang Bo-Chien) and Donnie Yen as the mercenary Gambler whose ex-wife (Fan Bingbing) has moved on to become the concubine of the Tycoon, yet being thrown a request to protect the latter.

Speaking of Donnie Yen, his fight with Cung Le (Vietnam's world class fighter and martial artist) provided one of the major set action piece which unfortunately have all the best bits included in the trailer. To my untrained eye, Yen's fighting style here was quite MMA, and given the large cast and premise, didn't allow the spotlight to shine on him for too long, as the other best action sequence was kept under wraps and followed on after Yen's, which I shall not mention lest I ruin the surprise.

Part of the fun here is to identify the myriad of recognizable faces in bit roles, from Jacky Cheung to Eric Tsang being the toothless Chief of Police, and it goes to show that Chinese films continue to have that potential to spin an interesting yarn starring some of the best in the business now, while remaining both entertainment at its best, and somewhat thought provoking with its bravado talk on revolution (well, this is China, remember) to bring about sweeping change against corruption and oppression through democracy, with a fine balance struck between all-out action and heartfelt drama. A classic in the making most definitely!
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Great storytelling with some disturbingly awkward moments.
honorhorror9 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Bodyguards and Assassins(Mandarin Title "Shi Yue Wei Cheng") is a great movie, living up to the dollars you paid and all the celebrities in it.However, the soul of this movie is marred by many awkward moments.

At the level of film-making, it's very authenticated with all the technique. Every character feels like weighted right and with the right tone. That's half because of very skillful make-ups while half because of performances. Also, if you try just a little to follow the director's cue, it wouldn't be hard to get all the details understood with a lot of good surprises. There are several parallel montage sequences paralleling the nobodies with somebodies, dreams with realities, successes with their prices that felt so heavy yet so moving. The illustration of historical brutalities and each person's emotional undertone is also very compelling to watch. All in all, this is indeed a worthwhile experience.

However, please also look beyond the many awkward moments to enjoy it. The awkwardness essentially come from the dogmatic lines directly copied from Chinese official history/politics textbooks. For instance, the part where the businessman Li's only son was selected to be Sun Wen's replacement, he argued that he should bear the results of drawing lots equally with others because "they are supposed to object to the feudal code of ethics". This rigid insertion of "main theme" comment made me very uncomfortable. For the record, there are several similar situations which made me reflect on all the "revolution epics" I've seen. Particularly, "Bodyguards and Assassins" is gonna give you the impression that Sun Wen the "father of Chinese revolution" deserves a good punch in the face because all he did in the movie was to be there as the "only hope" of Chinese future doing stuffs he could have remotely done, if this is the first time you know about Sun Wen's story. For Western audiences, it's important to know the reality with contemporary Chinese mindset. That's nationalism mixed with collectivism is non-arguably the absolute ethic standard, which would justify all the phony lines the actors awkwardly uttered along with all the tragic deaths of heroes. In this predominant context, Sun Wen's image had long been modified in public's mind to fit the "absolute revolutionary symbol" like this movie's demonstration, which is much weaker than its real historic model. Fortunately the storytelling is smoothed out with more than one motivation from Sun Wen' bodyguards. Most of them didn't even know what it means by "revolution", which helped creating the tear-jerking moments.

There are also many regretfully missing notes which would have greatly rewarded the audiences. Nicholas Tse's Ah Si is one of them. This is definitely a very touching, potentially inspiring character in the story. But at the end he was just another used bullet in the revolution. He along with his handicapped wife could have survived the event and live on to see what future brought. But, the movie's ending was fixed on the revolutionary mentor's grievous face, when he just have killed his bad student who murdered his good student in the struggle. Anyway, officially this movie should make you "taste today's sweetness compared to old days' bitterness"(In mandarin we say "Yi Ku Si Tian"). If you don't feel this way, you might just point out the movie's hollowness. At last, this movie deserves its commercial/critic success because of the superb film-making, but it doesn't cover the smell of a propaganda.
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Lomedin10 February 2016
With a running time over 2 hours, I found this movie a bit slow and extremely over-dramatized. I mean no disrespect for the events that led to the China Revolution of the beginning of the 20th century, although trying to put too much drama into this by ways of overacting and continuously falling in a pit of drama is not helping much.

There are a couple of moments that shine, like the fight of the policeman with one of the assassins or, particularly, the apparition of the cleaned up beggar. Well, in fact, these are the only 2 real fights in the whole movie.

This movie could have done much better without so much drama and little less running time. In order to make people know about the Revolution, you don't need to make a mockery out of the real tragedy.
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Horrible, Even Corny at times
igoslw16 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Do not waste time watching this movie. I wish i would have never watched it. Horrible storyline, plot, and action. Doesn't make since to make people super human in a, what's suppose to be, a serious story line about china's history and revolution. And they had a gun the whole time and they ran from one guy (with only a sword.) The professor new who the head of the snake was the whole time. Yet he informed no one or even try to turn the table and assassinate him.

I'm not sure how accurate this movie is but even if it was accurate why waste 23 million to retell a story to show people how dumb the rebellion was. Poor planning and wasted too many lives... People died, and they didn't have to. And who the hell kills their target without confirming it.

I am really disappointed at the time i wasted watching this. I was hoping for it to get better but it just got worse. More idiotic. More corny. Please heed these words. Watch something else.
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Escellent Movie under all aspects.
Ucare28 April 2014
I thought this would have been just a martial arts movie. I was wrong. It is more than that. I actually would not classify it as Martial Arts movie, but as Historic Movie (about a moment in time of a Country where Martial Arts where important). The events narrated and the way they are narrated take a more important place than the (anyway very good) martial arts scenes. I cannot understand its underrating! It is absolutely wonderfully acted, moving, epic. The characters are so human, you can "fall in love" with them, almost all actors give to their character such a humanity. This is FAR WAY BEYOND any martial art movie I have ever seen in long time. A fight for ideals, of students, of people with values, honor, integrity, dignity. People who wanted to change things. And this story is told with sensibility and humanity.
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Would have otherwise been an EXCELLENT movie (spoilers)
shiguaman10 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Hear me out, this was overall a VERY good movie. I'm only giving it a 5 out of 10 for ONE reason, and it's more of a personal gripe. This movie kills off just about every single main character. Perhaps it is JUST me, but I watch movies with the hope that the main character has a fighting chance, that he survives. Now, I'm not totally against main or supporting characters dying, but not if EVERY SINGLE ONE dies. This movie's biggest flaw is its unnecessary slaughtering of all the good guys. What is the point of a movie that leaves you with NOBODY to root for at the end? This film thoroughly intrigued, touched, and entertained me until the last scene, when one after another, the fan favorite characters started dying off. Had it had a more enthusiastic, optimistic ending, it would've been on my top rewatch list easily, along with the likes of the Ip Man series and a plethora of Jet Li films. If Ip Man could be emotional yet end happily, this could've too.
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A history lesson posing as an action flick.
BA_Harrison17 August 2016
Hong Kong, the early 20th century: as Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-Sen makes his way to a meeting destined to change the history of China, he is targeted by a team of highly trained assassins; sworn to protect him are a small band of loyal bodyguards, each willing to lay down their life for their ideology — the eventual freedom of their beloved country from the oppressive rule of the tyrannous Qing dynasty.

I was wary of Bodyguards and Assassins since it was promoted as being from the producers of The Warlords, which wasn't all that great, but the quote on the cover of my DVD made the film sound like a veritable action-fest, and the inclusion of Donnie Yen in the cast convinced me that a couple of hours of awesome martial arts mayhem was in the offing. Imagine my disappointment to find that the action only makes up a small percentage of the running time, the movie focusing primarily on the tumultuous political climate of the era, and the personal dramas that unfold as a result. I have no idea how accurate all of this is (although I suspect that it is more than a tad biased), but I can tell you that it is incredibly boring.

Mind you, when the fighting does eventually happen, it's far from impressive, with rapid editing making it hard to see what is happening and way too much wire-work for my liking. Next time I see a film advertised as being from the producers of The Warlords, I think I'll follow my gut instinct and give it a miss.
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Okay build up, but don't care for the heroes sacrifices when it's all done and finished
KineticSeoul28 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
When I first saw the trailer to this film, I thought it was going to be a all out kung fu movie and to some degree it is. The first half of the film is basically the building of the main action in the movie. The plot is basically about a group of bodyguards that is trying to protect a man named Sun who is the leader of the revolutionaries that will overthrow the corrupt Qing Dynasty. Of course Empress Dowager Cixi of Qing Dynasty won't sit around for this to happen and sends assassins to kill Sun, who is the people hope. Now the first half the film has more to do with plotting, not a great story but still kinda deep for these types of films. Mainly to do with planning and recruiting, while also having and willing to sacrifice to reach a greater goal. Now for some of the first half of the film was kinda believable, well until the wacky kung fu stuff started happening during the second half. I will admit though, the first half of this film just wasn't entertaining and although the second half is super silly and not believable it was entertaining. Now although some claim this film is based on a true story, it's just laughable. It really does feel like your watching some kung fu mayhem than a actual real events. The movie also has some of the most stupid death scenes I ever seen, I mean at first you feel some sympathy for some of the characters but after watching some death scenes it all goes down the drain. In fact instead of feeling sad, it's just laughably stupid. Although the first half again was somewhat believable the drama in it was just so boring and the second half was entertaining but unconvincing for a movie about a actual event. At the end though you don't feel anything for the heroes sacrifices, instead it's just laughable and feels like the movie tries to insult them. I did enjoy some of the stupid action scenes though. 6.2/10
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HK Neo Reviews: Bodyguards & Assassins
webmaster-301725 March 2010
An entertaining Chinese blockbuster...

Review by Neo: Bodyguards and Assassins (B&A) is what you call, a blockbuster. Quality production values, generally good acting turns, steady direction and adequate commercial values to put bums on seats. Putting the false advertising of Donnie Yen aside, B&A is one of the better movies of 2009. As stupid as I was, pondering that this movie was IP MAN 2. I was all the more surprised by how satisfied it left me as the credit rolls. Lack of action, too much drama may have distorted most action fans, but director Teddy Chan combines perfectly with the silky producing of Peter Chan. Both Chan handles the drama impeccably and to a greater extent in the effect of spot on casting. By no means, a great flick, but undoubtedly, for what it is worth, B&S is a thoroughly entertaining piece of dramatic, historic and action event.

The movie goes like this: Sun Yat-Sen needs protection and in the process, everyone seems to be involved. The film is basically about the price to paid, the value of human beings and the cost of human lives for the greater good. Then again, the rest is just history.

One of the most stunning action moments in cinematic history involves Donnie Yen. Mr. Yen stands in the way of a full blooded horse charging at him with full pace and agility. The manner plus the fashion that led to the dramatic impact was simply a moment of magic. The stand out performance award must go to the veteran, Wang Yueqi. Mr. Wang juggles between the business world, fatherhood and idealisation is certainly amazing to watch. Wang evolves throughout the movie and the pinnacle moment occurs in the scene of witness his son premature death. Wang pulled it off terrifically, just like any other father. For me, it is these simple moments that adds up as to why B&A ultimately works.

As a villain, there are few that can rival, the merciless and fearless presence of Hu Jun. An expert practitioner in playing the bad guy, Hu is not just the cliché, one dimensional bad guy. His multi-layer performance is a joy to watch. As usual, Tony Leung Ka Fai is convincing as a sympathetic yet passionate follower of Sun Yat-Sen. Nicholas Tse plays the simple guy with simple dreams and life. Tse pursues love and friendship and values loyalty, is most likely his best performance for a long while. Donnie Yen actually attempts to act and likewise, Leon Lai provides a moment of comic relief as a beggar turned kung fu fighter. Perhaps the weakest link goes to the stunt double of Sun Yat-Sen. Played by Wang Bo Chieh, he is neither convincing nor capable of handling such an important role. Wang lacks both screen presence and the required acting ability to add any value to the movie.

All in all, B&A is an entertaining blockbuster attempt in recapturing the chaotic history of the turn of century in China. Mr. Sun Yat-Sen may well be a respectable hero, but it undeniably poses the question of value. Did his vision justify the death and human sacrifices of all these individuals? Is his principle of the greater good, simply just any version of the first emperor of China in his unification of China as one country? For me, it is a matter of perspective and going into a historical and political debate will most likely require a research essay all together. Still, it makes you wonder, why Mr. Sun did not keep his visit of Hong Kong, as low profile as possible. It seems as though that he is trying to stand out by wearing his trademark white hat. Forgetting these minor flaws, as a movie, B&A works just fine. For once, director Teddy Chan got the balance of drama and action spot on. Credit should also be dealt to producer Peter Chan, as his touch and influence is clearly evident throughout. It has been a disappointing year 2009 for the local industry and while B&A does nothing to change that fact, it still manages to shed some light at the end of the tunnel...(Neo 2010)

I rate it 8/10

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What a hunk of moldy cheese!
russlawrence29 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Well now I've heard (and seen) it all. I saw the great reviews of this movie, and after watching the amazing "The Man From Nowhere" last night, thought I'd go 2 for 2.

Not so!

Other reviewers are saying this made you care for the characters. I can't believe that! I was laughing more than anything. How many times can you be reminded over and over and over of the same things... the man trying to protect his son, the man trying to overcome the death of the woman he loved, the man trying to fight for the daughter he almost had... blah blah blah.

If it were done with great acting, then maybe, but this is far from it. This is by far the cheesiest movie I've seen in many years. Overacted, over-dramatized, over-directed, over-edited, and even the score was overdone.

"Over The Top." If Stallone hadn't made a movie with that title, this one should be called that for sure.

At least I was hoping for some great action and fighting... but alas no... If it wasn't for the fight scenes starting at about 38 minutes left in the film, I would have given this movie one star.

I can't believe I sat through the whole movie until that last part. But at least them I got to see some cool action, even if every time someone "important" to the plot died, they would flash their obituary on the screen... like I was going to cry or something?

Honestly, don't believe the hype you're reading about this movie. I'm a HUGE fan of action, drama, and martial arts films. Finding one that has great action, drama, plot, fights, and acting is about impossible (unless it's "The Man From Nowhere"). This movie succeeds in having NONE of those great elements.

It's boring. It's supremely cheesy. It's unsatisfying. And now I can't get my Saturday night back. Oh, well... I'll call it an experiment in movie watching and try something else tomorrow. The least I could do is to warn others to NOT waste their valuable time on this cheese-fest.

Don't make me say I told you so... Watch something else.
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Crowd-pleasing action spectacular
Leofwine_draca16 May 2013
Now this is more like it! BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS is an expertly-crafted and detailed martial arts odyssey that comes close to the high quality of the two IP MAN films. It's carefully made, intelligent and intriguing, and it tells a little-known story (outside of Asia, at least) in such a way that is both educational and entertaining. A difficult mix, to be sure, but one that really works here.

I'll make no bones about it: this movie is slow paced and long, but it really rewards the viewer who allows himself to fully immerse in the cinematic world. The first half or so is the set-up, which is lengthy and detailed, with lots of supporting characters; the last hour really ups the ante in terms of on-screen action, running together a series of martial arts battles that just get better and better as we near the end.

And the fight scenes are truly spectacular, sure to delight any fan of the genre. They're of the scenery-smashing, bone-breaking, wirework-assisted variety, with Donnie Yen and his companions battling a series of exceptional villains to the death in scenes that are exciting as they are technically proficient. Despite Yen's presence, this is far from a star vehicle; the famed actor is content to take a back seat for the most part and allows his peers to shine, which they do. Tony Leung is very good in a non-action role, but the real surprise is Nicholas Tse, playing against type and exceptionally good with it. Leon Lai, Cung Le and Bingbing Fan all contribute effective turns too.

I know that Chinese films are often criticised for being too melodramatic, and this is no exception to that rule; nevertheless, the film works, tugging at the heartstrings as well as getting the adrenaline flowing. It really is one of those films that offers it all, from action and excitement to detailed characters and pathos, and I look forward to revisiting it in the future.
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Snusmumrikken19 April 2010
Very disappointing film. This film last's 138 min. In my opinion it was at least 45 min too long. I find it a overlong film!. i think it had too little action. When a action showed up, i think it was poor. Even the drama and story was very boring. I think it should be renamed to Boringguards and Assassins. I like some Drama films and TV series, but i think this was not any good Drama.

I think the camera angles and editing also was poor. It was hard to follow the action. I thought this film would be action packed, considering Donnie was in it. I don't think it was. With all that money, how could they make such a bad film? I don't know how they managed to do that. Also, Donnie wears a silly unconvincing bald-cap making his head look like a watermelon. Hahaa.

It has only max 15 min of action out of 138 min. I felt cheated since, before it was released it was promoted as having 1 hour of action. More drama film than action film. I will never watch this film again. See only this if you like a boring drama film with very little action. Watch Ip Man instead, than this junk. I think it does at least have much better, story, acting, and fight scenes
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Okay, I had a feeling at the beginning..and after watching..
gregsie7410 May 2010
...i was right. Big blockbuster aimed at mainland Chinese audience. lots of nationalism and lots of stars emoting. but somehow it didn't work. yes i have read a lot of reviews on IMDb and was intrigued to find out what people thought and i agree with one guy who said that that there's great build up but the ending was just over the top action. i mean the acting at some points is really great. the main guy is really good and holds the film together;Nicolas ste does quite a touching turn in his role, and Donnie yen plays a loser in it , quite convincingly. but it just all seemed to be manipulation for the final climax...cue sun yut sen hidden from view with his white hat.

OK so I've also read reviews that this has great nationalistic appeal because of the legend of sun yut sen but unfortunately for me, I'm not too keen on manipulation , whether its nationalist or not. and although i liked parts of the drama in the first half,although it did get a bit meandering after a while as i wasn't sure who to focus on, when it comes to the action bit. i had to pause it. i mean the tone totally changed. from drama with some decent acting in it ( as if it were Wong kar wai) to b movie with the big giant in it. i should have guessed what the giant was in it for but basically its the token lovable giant character thats a throw back to goonies and its just a bit cheesy. in fact the whole action set up of protecting this dude with the white hat. i mean there's no explanation. he doesn't talk, hes just a dude in a white hat. yes to mainlanders hes sun yut sen but from a normal film-goer hes a dude in a white hat that lots of people run through fruit markets ready to take a shed-load of arrows as they run through street-crowds. it just didn't make any sense.the action just suddenly appeared and all the build up ( not that the build up was all that engaging ) as i think there were too many characters and not enough interest. the Leon lai character was a complete EH character. i mean what the hell, he just slept on the floor throughout the film and took a bath, and then as I'm about to see , take on an army of men. i mean EH? makes no sense. Chinese action filmmakers seem to love their slow motion and emoting but there's no real trust of the script. which is quite well written at times . finally there's Donnie yen. well we cant have a Donnie yen film without Donnie kicking ass can we? the problem is that he suddenly moves from being unshaven drunk to bad-ass Donnie yen in the blink of an eye and his character just vanishes one messes with Donnie yen. .the fight between him and cung le was just b movie action, wasn't sure the importance of cung le but it just interrupted the flow of the main film. the ending between him and cung le was just manipulative and like the whole film didn't have any real personal drama but just played on symbolism and i haven't gotten to the bit where he punches a horse in the face but anyway you get the idea towards the very end the melodrama was touching. between the father and son and actually this scene with tony leung trying to aim his gun was quite good too, suddenly the film regained its Oscar worthy status.but because of everything thing beforehand: Leon lai fighting, Donnie yen horse-punching, all trying to get in the way of a dumb assassin. the stupidity of the film let it down. and the close up of sun yut sen was a bit heavy handed. like i said if it wasn't playing on the nationalism of the Chinese,id say he looked uncannily like a woman with a mustache. from the very start despite the posters and big announcements and premature nationalist back-patting hype i wasn't expecting a lot from this film, like i said i had the idea it'd be an odd mix of drama, action and that it lasted 3hrs( hence my reluctance to watch it for a while)and as the cast weren't really 'actors' but more 'characters' and yet this was a story that required 'actors' and less action. i mean Simon lam, probably the best hope of an actor in the film, dies too early with a pointless character, tony leung hides behind his glasses doing nothing except looking scared. the only real actor is the main guy who has dignity and grace. and his son wasn't too bad of an actor either , but the others. played character parts. and to be frank, needed better actors with better stories, or just cut out of the script completely. OK I've rambled long enough. too many characters. too pointless stories.action seemed OK but didn't mix with the drama which in turn didn't really have any interesting turns. manipulative melodrama. bit boring at get the idea.cung le vs yen? not as interesting as yen vs horse.I'm afraid. i like Eric stang with mustache tho. he looks like Mr creosote in the meaning of life.'another wafer monsieur?'Not the best way to review this example of 10yrs of Peter Chan's hard work in getting this to the screen but hey, it won loads of awards and made lots of money so who cares , right?
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Chinese Munich
ken5088us18 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Watching the film reminds me of Munich,the 2005 thriller directed by Steven Spielberg.This story boast a number of characters,each with their own past tragedy and personal reason to fight and sacrifice.The main characters sacrificed their lives willingly for Dr. Sun whereas Avner and his teammates initially find the assassination fulfilling,but soon found themselves drained with guilt and lost a sense of themselves.The score in this movie is also similar to Munich.The first half here is pretty much the set up to a very intriguing second half of assassination plot filled with great action sequence mainly the fight between Donnie Yen and Cun Le.Also it boast the ideology question here as seen in the conversation between a tutor and former student played by Tony Leung and Hu Jun(also reminds me of the conversation about Middle Eastern politics in the warehouse between Avner and Ali).This is a good action film with beautiful characters each with their own story, fighting and sacrificing their lives for an important mission.
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