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十月圍城 (2009)
Bodyguards and Assassins

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 12/02/2012
Summary: Revolution is a weighty matter

“Bodyguards and Assassins” is bloated, overwrought and too long. It has one theme, that blood must be shed for the revolution to take place, which the six (!) screenwriters constantly pound home with all the subtlety of a falling safe. The dialog is risible—the characters make political speeches to each other instead of talking although all the good guys are already on board with Sun Yat-Sen’s democratic-nationalist revolution.

There are quite a few instant metamorphoses, none more radical than Li Yu-Tang, a friend of hardcore revolutionary Chen Xiaobai. A successful businessman he had kept his commitment in check by acting as a paymaster for the rebels, always ready to come up with a few thousand to keep the pot boiling. Enraged by seeing demonstrators beaten in the streets with the connivance of the Royal Hong Kong Police and Chen tortured by Manchu loyalists, further radicalized when his newspaper, the “China Daily” is shut down for printing propaganda, Li becomes a firebrand speaker and acknowledged leader of the nationalists in Hong Kong within an afternoon. After a couple of days he is an expert on small unit tactics, on the proper way to move a procession through a potentially hostile crowd and all the covered walkways, tunnels and protected overhangs on their route. Having committed to the revolution he simply knows stuff.

While its thematic content, political/social tunnel vision and obeisance to the founding myths of the PRC make “Bodyguards and Assassins” annoying and a bit of a slog to get through its 2 hours and 18 minutes, there are a lot of rewards if you keep watching. The set design, apparently a 1:1 reconstruction of Hong Kong, 1906 is enthralling. So is the view of the city from the harbor that must be based on a digital matte painting. Since the lead actors were limited by the ham-handed dialog—big Tony Leung and Wang Xue-Qi would have been terrific together if either one of them had just a bit of self-doubt to serve as a catalyst for some emotion between two lifelong friends facing a crisis—the supporting players carried the acting load.

Nicholas Tse was excellent as the rickshaw driver, a role that was full of pathos, uncertainty and fear leavened with indomitable love for his girlfriend who he passes every day on his route but has had a hard time approaching. Zhou Yun did a good job as Ah Suen, the object of his love, although the congenital limp she was enough over the top as to be a distraction. Professional basketball player Mengke Bateer was terrific as a melon flinging madman, crushing loyalist marksmen with well flung cantaloupes. Michelle Reis had the briefest of cameos, an appearance that caused at least one viewer to say “Hey, that looks like Michelle Reis.”

Hu Jun was the all but indestructible rage machine whose job was to kill Sun Yat-Sen or die trying. Like the villains in classic kung fu movies, the more punishment he absorbed—Donnie Yen left him crushed and bleeding, all but decapitated, before his final lurch toward obeying the imperial command.

Very close to the end of the movie there is a scene with a rickshaw rolling down a flight of stone stairs, beginning slowly and gathering speed as it roles, much like a baby carriage on a similar bunch of steps in another movie about revolutionary action, set in a port city in 1905. The movie is “Battleship Potemkin”, the city Odessa. I thought it was strange for director Teddy Chen to unmistakable refer to a film that still resonates with movie lovers throughout the world, setting up a comparison that he must lose.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 05/07/2012
Summary: Engaging award winner

I found this film directed by Teddy Chan to be completely engaging. Similar to a fine dining experience, the production by Producer Peter Chan serves up scene after scene of compelling action that engages the viewer in the historical events leading to the birth of democracy in China.

Actor Nicholas Tse won the HKFA Best Supporting Actor Award for his role as the heroic rickshaw runner. While industry veteran Leon Lai is sadly miscast as an opium addicted aristocrat who rises up from his self-induced squalor to take up the fight to protect Dr. Sun.

Director Teddy Chen had earlier directed Downtown Torpedoes[1997] and The Accidental Spy [2001] so he's no stranger to the action genre. He had the good sense to hire on Action Directors Tung Wai and Lee Tat-Chiu, two of the best in the business to put the always exciting Donnie Yen threw some incredible fighting action.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: evirei
Date: 11/14/2011

A action movie with lots of BIG names starring in it. Based on actual events, this movie basically is a top-notch action movie. I guess the movie sort of too many main characters hence there are too complicated and the characters doesn't have much room for character development.

However the action sequence was really great and amazing. The setting, colour and mood of the show is seriously beautiful. Everything was such a perfect fit until the ending, which I find it too dramatic and too commercialized. Of course the ending is practically predictable and seriously could have been better.

Overall, a superb action sequence movie with A list actors and in-depth storyline. It's one of Asian's excellent historical movie with great detailing.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 10/26/2010
Summary: Disappointing

A big budget, "event" movie with an all star cast and lots of publicity (it even made it to my local cinema in Thailand, sadly dubbed into Thai so I didn't bother) that somehow fails to be particularly enjoyable to watch. The ingredients are there, the opportunity was there... have to put the blame on director Teddy Chen (or possibly the host of script writers) for failing to bring the film's potential out. Especially annoying is the lousy camera work & editing in the action scenes (think Michael Bay). It's not exactly bad, but it could and should have been much better.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 07/26/2010
Summary: the sun in his splendour...

hong kong, 1906. dr sun, a chinese nationalist, intent on overthrowing the qing dynasty and creating a republic of china, is about to arrive in hong kong for an important meeting where a timetable for revolution will be laid out.

li yue-tang (wang xue-qi) runs a newspaper and has been giving money to fund the revolution, via his son's tutor, professor chen xiaobai (tony leung ka-fai). chen calls upon fang tian (simon yam), an exiled general (?) who now runs a theatre troupe made up of his former men, to provide protection for dr sun against the inevitable attack from qing assassins. unfortunately, the assassins are one step ahead and it isn't too long before li, chen and a host of others are having to devise another plan to defend dr sun against the forces of hu jun (yan xiao-guo)...

well, the first thing to hit you is that this is an all-star cast; as well as those mentioned, there are also roles for nicholas tse, fan bing-bing, eric tsang (with a fantastic moustache), donnie yen, leon lai, michelle reis, jacky cheung, john shum and others. the secon dis the production values, which are very high indeed: the recreation of hong kong 100 years ago is done with aplomb; the costume design, set dressing and scale of some of the set pieces is just terrific.

so, amazing production values and a stellar cast; you're thinking that it's rubbish, aren't you?

well, it isn't rubbish, but it isn't great either. it is an overblown, but entertaining, melodrama, heavy on historical posturing, with some great set pieces thrown in. okay, so it's a little rubbish, but i forgive it for trying so damn hard and pulling off something which, at the very least, feels like it could be a good film. still, history book style speeches, chest thumping nationalistic hyperbole and some ludicrous details, such as the provision of the dates of characters when they die - i'm guessing that they're trying that it's not all bollocks - come across as being a bit too much or just lame.

despite its failure to be good, 'bodyguards and assassins' is well worth watching, providing you lower your expectations accordingly and you're prepared to be showered with cliche and melodrama. then you can sit back, enjoy a nicely made film, with a fine central performance from wang xue-qi, which was the highlight for me.


Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 04/20/2010

When boiled down to its' core, Bodyguards and Assassins is a movie that possibly didn't merit all of those Hong Kong Film Awards, since it comes off as somewhat unfocused. There are a few too many characters thrown into the mix, and we really end up learning nothing about the real events and people of the time. Also, the somewhat over-the-top action sequences don't really quite mesh with the more serious dramatic elements.

But in the end, Bodyguards and Assassins becomes a movie that is more than the sum of its' parts. Unlike some other recent big-budget Hong Kong releases like Kungfu Cyborg, this is actually a good film that won't leave you feeling disappointed or outright outraged.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Beat TG
Date: 01/24/2010
Summary: Great story, great set locations, good characters

Simply put, the movie has great production values, CG (for once), music, cinematography, and locations (obviously). And as a story and character-driven movie, BODYGUARDS & ASSASSINS does a pretty good job going back and forth between characters and placing each of their agenda into the heavily political situation, where people choose sides of how China should be run, be like and how to reach goals to achieve that. Very fascinating stuff. Some things are of course exaggerated but hey, if audiences expect entertainment then exaggeration they should expect too, simple. Most of the characters were very well established and they had their personality and own motive to join, avoid or oppose the revolutionary movement. Like Wang Xue-Qi, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Hu Jun, Wang Bo-Chieh, Donnie Yen, and Fan Bing-Bing. All of them very engaged and point on for what they are and what they do.

Despite all the promo that's been going on, Donnie Yen isn't the main star and only gets about 10-15 min screentime, although he was an important character in the story and had one of the best performances in the movie, while Wang Xue-Qi, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Hu Jun and Wang Bo-Chieh take up most of the space and pretty much move the story along with their characters. The rest were just alright, some decently fleshed out and others less but altogether not so interesting though for the sake of the story are there to give you a sense of fellowship among the characters, which is enough to make them likable at least. However, that itself was a little problem for me because when you try to give as much space to develop each character, there's always the case where you end up giving too much and too less. Leon Lai ended up being the most underdeveloped (his background and actions didn't convince much at all) whereas Wang Xue-Qi was the most well developed and understood. Another problem with the screentime was that during the most intense moment (when chaos finally breaks loose), most actors involved are given very dramatic moments as they are slaughtered one by one to give the viewers something to emphasize with and something to remember about the characters. The whole thing got a bit too much after a while. It worked on some characters but not on other as I didn't emphasize with those I didn't care about much.

For an over 2 hour piece, the action here is sparse. The beginning spends time on building up the story and characters, and from there it goes along until 1 hour passes. And then you get to the action which was said to be consisted by non-stop action. But it's not like what you usually expect from fight scenes. This is something else. It's not about the huge amount of set-pieces, the length (although I felt there were gaps in several fight scenes which indicates that they must've been shortened in the final version), the choreography, the timing, execution, editing, and camerawork this time. It's just the story and the events; how they integrate and connect the action to each character as the the story comes to its' conclusion. I'm not sure whether or not this is a good thing or a disappointment so you will just have to see it to understand everything.

Reviewer Score: 7