Bodyguards and Assassins Review

Set in 1905 Bodyguards and Assassins takes place during an interesting time in Chinese history. The film’s events occur before the revolution of 1911 which was given birth to by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. In this film Dr. Sun Yat-Sen has to escape a series of assassination attempts and the film builds to a sequence where he must race across thirteen blocks surviving the various attacks against him, defended by only a handful of men.

One of these men is Donnie Yen who helps fight off the various assassins in the finale. It is the action moments seen in the finale that help sold the film to me in the trailers I saw. Sadly watching the film is a wholly underwhelming experience following any exposure to the teasers and trailers. Bodyguards and Assassins is no Ip Man when it comes to action and the half-hearted history lessons that the story provides do little to help it either.

The film is made up of two lackluster halves. The first is the history lesson where we are told the set up of the plot and introduced to all the characters and conflicts and the second half resolves this with extended action sequences. The two halves don’t really mix particularly well and the editing leaves one feeling that Teddy Chen made two films and that they were just stitched together afterwards. This would not be such a huge issue if the two halves worked better but unfortunately they both fall a bit flat.

The historical drama of the first half is slow to build and Chen doesn’t manage to infuse the plot with any emotion making the drama somewhat lifeless and undramatic. As the action ramps up in the final sequences there are some fantastic martial arts stunts but these are let down as they do not feel that dramatic as their importance has not been effectively set up. For any audience aware of the history there is also little doubt about the outcome of the assassination attempts and without Chen providing any other plot threads to hang onto there is almost no tension to anything in the film.

If you are a die hard martial arts fan you will find brief moments to enjoy in the action set pieces but aside from these and the impressive sets/CGI, Bodyguards and Assassins is unfortunately a pretty big let-down, especially considering the caliber of cast and crew involved and the plaudits it has received around the world.

A slightly different version of this review was originally posted at HeyUGuys.