HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Bodyguard
HTS Overall Score:76
There are three “greats” in the world of Hong Kong action movies, in my opinion. Well, by greats I mean true LEGENDS. There are many MANY great Hong Kong action directors, actors and producers, but the three that stick out in my mind are Bruce Lee (of course), Jackie Chan, and Sammo Hung. Sammo Hung has been around as long as Jackie Chan has, actually making his start in the same school that Jackie came from that trained them both in martial arts, dancing and acrobatics. Back then Sammo hadn’t gained his legendary weight (which came about from breaking his leg and being laid up for a long period of time, combined with some serious munchies), but even though he has been labeled as the “fat man of martial arts”, he was able to carve out a MASSIVE career for himself that has spanned over 30 years. To this day he is considered one of the top martial arts choreographers in all of Asia, rivaling Yuen Woo Ping, Cory Yuen and Jackie Chan. So color me more than a BIT excited when I find out that Sammo Hung is directing his first movie in over 20 years. This is the same man who has directed such classics as “Dragons Forever”, “Shanghai Express”, “Project A 2”, “Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars” and quite a few others, and I was completely stoked to sit down and watch “The Bodyguard”.
First off let me say this. “The Bodyguard” had one of the most deceptive marketing campaigns of all time. Every trailer and every poster has made it out to be this massive action/revenge plot wherein an aging bodyguard has to protect a young girl from gangsters. We have an all-star cast listed on the back, with Andy Lau, Sammo Hung, Eddie Ping, Yuen Wah, Yuen Biao, Karl Maka, Dean Shek (the last two not having starred in a film for 16 and 26 years respectively), but all of them except for Lau and Hung only showing up for brief cameos. Eddie Ping makes a brief one, but Yuen Wah comes in for a moment as a postman, and Tsui Hark, Karl Maka and Dean Shek (all legendary directors and producers) are cast aside as a few moments of snarky comments playing three old mooweeers who share a few moments of banter. Even the famous Yuen Biao, who is finally back together with Sammo Hung for the first time in decades is relegated to a few lines of dialog at the end of the movie.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=78850[/img]While the movie was marketed as this all-star action film, it really is more of a very low key drama about an aging military official and his chance of redemption. Mr. Ding (Sammo Hung) is an old man who has lived his life as a legendary officer of the peace, only to slip into the early stages of dementia in his old age. Some years ago he and his daughter called things off when his slipping mind allowed for his young granddaughter to go missing, leaving the two of them estranged. Now he lives in a small town on the Chinese/Russian border, trying to live as low key as he possibly can. This is all changed forever when his next door neighbor Li Zheng Jiu is forced to steal a Russian gangster’s bag of jewels for a local mob boss and botches the whole thing. Now Li Zheng has put a target on not only his own back, but that of his young daughter, Cherry Li (Jacqueline Chan) as well. Now Ding has to put aside his mental issues and use the god given gifts of his hands and feet to rip apart the gangsters piece by piece in order to atone for the sins of his past.
While it may seem like a majority of the film is all action from the trailers and descriptions, there are only two real action set pieces, with the main one being the last 20 minutes of the movie. The rest of the time it is a low key drama that sets up what is to come by building the relationship between Cherry Li and Ding. The two bond as Cherry’s father is a bit of loser, getting into debt with the local mob boss, and she spends most of her time over at Ding’s house while her father screams and rages about his failed life. Before you get my complaining wrong, “The Bodyguard” is not a BAD film. In fact it’s a fairly competent film, but just one that is misrepresented by the marketing. HOWEVER what we’re really looking forward to here is the bone crunching action and top notch choreography by Sammo Hung. Sadly there is very little of it in the film and the last twenty minutes of action don’t make up for nearly an hour and 15 minutes of rather tedious non action. Not to mention there seems to be an abundance of what I like to call “medium-motion”. It’s not exactly Slo-Mo, but it’s not full speed either. It sticks out like a sore thumb when Hung is usually known for incredible choreography (which is still good, just masked under a lot of medium-motion action work. Especially the weird use of overlaid broken bones, ala “Romeo must Die”).
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=78858[/img]“The Bodyguard” features a mostly spectacular 2.39:1 aspect ratio Blu-ray encode that is marred only by a few small flaws. Colors are natural and clearly saturated, with greys and earthy browns dominating the small town where Ding and Cherry reside, but they are punctuated by bright neon lights and the shining steel monstrosities of the nearby city when it is visited by our main characters. There is some color banding on extreme close ups and some dark sequences, which is where the image starts to soften a bit too, otherwise the image is razor sharp with tons of fine details ranging from extremely intimate facial details to the blood and fibers on the worth clothing worn by Ding. Black levels are usually VERY good, but sometimes the aforementioned banding comes into play, which does decrease shadow detail a bit. It’s almost a 4.5/5 picture if not for those extreme close-ups that smear a bit, and the banding that is associated with them.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=78866[/img]The highlight of the film is the near reference level 5.1 Cantonese track on the disc, which is extremely nuanced and aggressive when need be. The dialog is always crisp and clear, locked up front in the center channel, while the surround speakers get plenty of activity with the action sequences, and even a lot of use with ambient noises including the very odd score (a mix of like 5 or 6 different musical styles throughout the film). Directionality is top notch, with moments where you can hear a person shifting from one side of the sound stage to another with the back channels, and a HEAVY use of the LFE channel. The fights are filled with deep impactful bass that makes the use of fists and feet very intense and powerful. It’s a great sounding track and really adds a sense of intensity and immersion to the experience.
• Making of
“The Bodyguard” (labeled “My Beloved Bodyguard” in mainland China, and even IMDB if you go searching for it) is not a bad movie. It’s a solid enough drama about an aging man who is seeking redemption. But as the nonstop action movie it was advertised as, the movie failed miserably. The action is minimal, and the appeal of Sammo Hung directing for the first time in 20 years was a bit lackluster compared to what I was hoping for. The Blu-ray itself is top notch, with good video and GREAT audio, but there are very few if any extras included on the disc. As a long time Sammo Hung fan I have to say that “The Bodyguard” is still worth checking out. It’s just sadly not a must watch like I was hoping it would be. Recommended as a Rental.
Starring: Sammo Hung, Jacqueline Chan, Qinqin Li
Directed by: Sammo Hung
Written by: Jun Jiang
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: Cantonese: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Cantonses DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Runtime: 99 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 6th, 2016
Buy The Bodyguard On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Decent Rental
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