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The Bodyguard - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Te Gong Ye Ye

Hong Kong, China 2016

Genre:
Action, Drama

Director:
Sammo Hung

Cast:
Sammo Hung
Jacqueline Chan
Andy Lau
Li Qin-Qin
Jack Feng Jiayi
Zhu Yu-Chen
William Feng
Tsui Hark
Karl Maka
Dean Shek
Yuen Qiu
Yuen Wah
Yuen Biao


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The Bodyguard

The Bodyguard - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Ding (Sammo Hung) was a high-ranking officer in the army and also a bodyguard. But when he was supposed to look after his own granddaughter she vanishes without a trace. This guilt is a constant companion of his and the pain about this also accompanies him his whole life. Now living in a village he leads a quiet life, yet he struggles with dementia slowly conquering him. Mrs. Park (Li Qin-Qin) would like to take care of him, but he prefers to be alone. Yet, there is a bond of friendship between him and the little girl Cherry (Jacqueline Chan), who constantly sneaks out of the house of her father Li Zheng-Jiu (Andy Lau), a gambler, and seeks shelter at Ding's. Ding takes care of her as if she were his grandchild and Li accepts this most of the time. However, when Li, because of his gambling debts, steals a bag from Russian gangsters by order of criminal Choi Dong-Hen (Jack Feng Jiayi) and decides to keep it, life gets complicated for Ding as well. Choi wants to get his hands on the bag and also doesn't refrain from using Li's daughter Cherry to apply pressure. Ding does everything in his power not to neglect his duties as a grandfather again. Although he may be old and overweight and also suffers from dementia he is still an exceptional martial artist.

The Bodyguard - Film Screenshot 2 The Bodyguard - Film Screenshot 3
The Bodyguard - Film Screenshot 4

Review: No one probably knew what to expect when it was announced that Sammo Hung would return to the director's chair after two decades. Most people most likely anticipated a martial arts movie. But seriously: Sammo Hung is 64 years old. Should you really expect an action rollercoaster with him in the lead role? Still, the action actually doesn't need to hide behind his previous works, that is when it finally stands in the spotlight. It's actually the other parts of the movie that cause some raised eyebrows. For instance, there is way too much melodrama, a story that lacks any real focus, odd humor and many missed opportunities to make something well-achieved with the different pieces. Ultimately, "The Bodyguard" can't truely convince.

The Bodyguard - Film Screenshot 5

First and foremost, the director constantly emphasizes that Ding suffers from dementia and that the fact he lost his granddaughter torments him tremendously. This makes the movie a drama which centers around Ding's relationship with little Cherry, in which he tries to attain something like absolution. This relationship actually offers enough material to work with, but the director's goal isn't pursued stringently enough. The gritty gangster story part is supposed to appeal to action fans as well and a little bit of humor is supposed to lighten things up. Especially concerning the latter it turns out that on the one hand the humoristic parts are scattered throughout the film in an unequal fashion and on the other hand they often simply don't work the way intended. The cameo by Tsui Hark, Dean Shek and Karl Maka as three elders is just one of many examples where you have to ask yourselves how this is supposed to fit into the rest in the end. And this even though this is one of the more acceptable attempts.

The Bodyguard - Film Screenshot 6

As an actor Sammo Hung ("SPL", "Ip Man 2") doesn't really deserve any laurels, instead he is more of an excellent martial artist and choreographer. Here, he tries to bring to screen the drama around his dementia a bit more profoundly with his stoic nature and reservedness. Whether he succeeded in doing so or not everyone should decide for himself, yet there is in fact something tragical about an old man wandering around disoriented. It should be self-explanatory, though, that "The Bodyguard" can't work as a drama alone. Moreover, the humor easily could have been written out of the movie since most of the time it is just alienating. This is even the more odd, since an old kung fu master suffering from dementia could be the source for countless funny moments. If Sammo Hung didn't want to go into that direction then that's understandable, too, but in that case he should have done completely without the humor. Because the way it is, it's simply strange.

The Bodyguard - Film Screenshot 7

Also strange is how bloody and gritty the film can be in some places. The story around Chinese and Russian gangsters goes hand in hand with the utilization of many knives and oftentimes it's almost shocking how brutal the movie can be. Bones are crushed in rapid succession, after all. Andy Lau ("Saving Mr. Wu", "Blind Detective") also didn't shy away from performing his stunts all by himself and during the action scenes you certainly see Sammo Hung's true profession. When he faces a whole army of thugs in the finale it's truely a sight to behold. Sammo without a doubt has his best years behind him and his weight problem gets more and more dangerous to his health, but what he delivers here, without having to move around that much, is certainly great, making use of many elements of Wing Chun style.

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The Bodyguard - Film Screenshot 10

What's bothersome during the fight scenes, though, is the use of motion blur getting more and more frequent, although this isn't necessary at all since the protagonist's movements are fast and convincing enough. Especially the hard-hitting straight-forward style is appealing. However, the movie gets unintentionally funny when Ding hobbles after a hurt villain. Probably the slowest chasing scene ever. And among the weird scenes is also that the gangsters shout out their crimes while Ding completely obviously holds a recording device into their face. You just have to shake your head in disbelief when it comes to such scenes since they stand in strong contrast to the otherwise polished looking pictures. Towards the end there is also a good amount of melodrama and a warm, fuzzy feeling you get. Latter one works out surprisingly well so that it's hard to say whether "The Bodyguard" is a well-achieved movie or not because of the aforementioned weaknesses. Maybe it's also ok to fastforward right to the finale...

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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