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The Bodyguard (Blu-ray Review)

Is The Bodyguard worthy of Sammo Hung?! (Blu-ray Review)The legendary Sammo Hung directs and stars in The Bodyguard.  Ding (Hung), a retired officer from the Chinese Central Security Bureau, befriends a little girl who’s father’s criminal connections have put them both in danger.  While at the same time suffering from dementia, Ding must use his incredible combat skills to defend his neighborhood and his new found friend.

 Is The Bodyguard worthy of Sammo Hung?! (Blu-ray Review)

Film

The film opens with narration that explains just about everything that we’re seeing onscreen.  Fortunately, that comes to an end at around fifteen minutes into the movie.  Which is JUST before it’s starts to get annoying. You can tell that the decision to use narration was something that came about after the film was finished.  There are a couple early scenes where the narration is absent, and to be honest, they’re a little hard to follow.  So we can attribute this odd choice as a means to fix some bad editing.

This is 100% a “B” movie.  Everything is so over-the-top that it’s like watching a Japanese Anime cartoon come to life!  Sammo Hung gives a beautifully quiet and introspective performance.  But the emotional content of each scene is basically telegraphed to the audience.  So most attempts at subtlety become lost when the characters dialogue actually describes what they’re doing AS they do it!  Movies like this don’t need a lot of explanation in order to follow them.  We should be able to feel what a character feels just by the look on their face.
*

Sammo Hung is an icon among the Martial Art film community.  Though he never quite reached the mega-stardom of Jackie Chan, his abilities in hand to hand combat put him right up there with him.  So it’s shocking to see him in such a lack luster story.  Especially considering he DIRECTED it!  Looking at the poster for The Bodyguard you would expect an action packed thriller with intense emotional content.  Sure, the performances might be a little exaggerated in these types of films.  But those performances only serve to heighten the sense of adventure!  We get one small fight scene at the start of the film, and then the next time we see someone throw a punch isn’t until 40mins minutes later!

You can tell that the priority here was to establish Ding’s relationship with the little girl.  Which is something that is usually lost in Martial Art films.  But you can totally have your cake and eat it too!  There’s no reason at all that we couldn’t have had a few small fights pop up in between the quiet moments. It would’ve given the film so much more energy, and intern, propelled us through the slower scenes.  There is a brief scene where Cherry Li’s (Jacqueline Chan) father  Li Zheng Jiu (Andy Lau) is on the run from some Russian gangsters.  He’s about to escape through a fence when suddenly the film cuts back to Ding and Cherry Li having a snack.  Meanwhile I’m yelling at the TV, “Go back! I want to see where he’s going!”

This film has an awesome concept that fits Hung’s abilities as an older fighter perfectly. The problem is that they hardly take advantage of his skills.  It would’ve been great if Ding was trying to keep his violent past a secret from the little girl.  The gangsters hunting her father could show up at Ding’s home whilst he prepares a meal for the two of them.  Ding becomes aware of their imminent arrival, and systematically dispatches with each of them in different parts of the house.  All the while reassuring her that he’s just tidying up and NOT beating bad guys to a pulp.
 *

To top it off, the film comes to a “climatic” ending with a battle royale between Ding and the nefarious Chinese and Russian gangsters.  The fight choreography itself is pretty good.  But it pails in comparison to what we know Hung is truly capable of.  They even slow the film down to some weird frame rate that gives a blurred effect to all of their movements.  This has to be some kind of bizarre attempt at recapturing the groundbreaking effects of The Matrix.  Because there is just no conceivable reason as to why someone would think this would be a good idea.  Instead of enhancing the action and intensity, it actually serves as a distraction from Hung’s incredible hand techniques.

Is The Bodyguard worthy of Sammo Hung?! (Blu-ray Review)

Video
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Clarity/Detail: Not too bad.  Although the effects that are used in the final fight scene cause everything to look pretty muddy.  But the shots of urban and rural China were at least serviceable.
Depth: This is where those sweeping shots of China kinda fall short.  These picturesque images would’ve been beautifully breathtaking if the scope was a little more detailed and clear.
Black Levels: Good, but a little grainy at times.
Color Reproduction: For the most part the colors are fairly muted, and I don’t think that this was a stylistic choice.  Even the scenes that take place in the forest don’t really pop with color.
Flesh Tones: These were actually pretty good.
Noise/Artifacts: None.

Is The Bodyguard worthy of Sammo Hung?! (Blu-ray Review)

Audio
Dynamics: Great!  Very balanced between the combat scenes, what little there were, and the intimate or calm moments.
Low Frequency Extension: Very good.  Big and powerful where it counts.
Surround Sound: N/A.
Dialogue Reproduction: Good. Although when the Russian gangsters started speaking Chinese it did get a little comical.
Extras
  • An All-star Cast with All-star Support – Instead of the usual interview in a room, they’ve opted to stylize this featurette with a black and white 1920’s motif.  It resembles a silent film from the time of Charlie Chaplin.  Among the behind-the-scenes footage we also see a few shots there were cut from the film.  There’s a scene where a woman who was most likely going to be Cherry Li’s mother is arguing with her father.  If they had kept scenes like thing in the movie, it would’ve been a much more well rounded story.  One thing that is nice about this particular extra is that each of the actors seem to have a genuine love and appreciation for Sammo Hung.  They each go on to explain that the main reason they said yes to working on The Bodyguard was because of him and how much he’s done for Chinese cinema.
  • About the Characters – A few of the actors give brief descriptions of their characters and their motivations.  Even though some of the characters didn’t make the final cut, it’s still nice to think of what the The Bodyguard would’ve been like if their scenes hadn’t been cut.
  • A View of a legend, On and Off the Screen – The cast discuss what it’s like to work with Sammo Hung.  They shower him with praise as they talk about his directing style, and general demeanor as a kind and generous person.
  • Sammo Hung: Kindness is his Calling Card – The cast and crew discuss their own personal experiences with the legendary actor and filmmaker.  That his kindness and generosity really seem to know no bounds.  Considering how much of an icon he is, it’s refreshing to hear that he is so open and generous with the people he works with.
  • About the Action – This featurette explains Sammo’s commitment to both perfection and safety when it comes to making fight and action scenes.  Again, we see a few scenes that didn’t make it into the film.  I truly believe that if they had kept these scenes IN the film, it would’ve made for a much more exciting experience.
  • About the Girl (Jacqueline Chan) Jacqueline Chan, who plays Cherry Li, discusses her acting background and what it was to act opposite Sammo Hung in The BodyguardShe also goes into what it was like to be one of the only children on set and her overall experience.
  • Trailer

Is The Bodyguard worthy of Sammo Hung?! (Blu-ray Review)

Summary
I really had high hopes for this movie.  Like I said earlier Sammo Hung is an iconic figure among martial art movie fans.  So when this turned out to be a lukewarm attempt at pulling at your heart strings, I was deeply disappointed.  If they would have just upped the action, this could’ve been so much more enjoyable.  I don’t even feel like you could describe this as an action movie.  The closest thing I can think of would be “A quiet drama with some action”.  Yup, that pretty much sums up this painfully unfortunate “Snore-Fest”.
*

The Bodyguard is now available on Blu-ray and DVD!

Is The Bodyguard worthy of the great Sammo Hung?! (Blu-ray Review)

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