Sunday, 20 March 2011

Bodyguards & Assassins / Shi yue wei cheng (DVD Review)

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Image: Courtesy of eOne Films

Dir: Teddy Chan (The Accidental Spy )
Cast: Donnie Yen, Leon Lai, Xueqi Wang, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Simon Yam, Yun Zhou, Nicholas Tse, Yuchun Li, Mengke Bateer, Cung Le
China/Hong Kong, 2009

Reason to see: I'm a big fan of both Donnie Yen & Simon Yam - I'll see anything they are in, especially together.

Bodyguards & Assassins / Shi yue wei cheng is set in 1905 Hong Kong, or then the British Colony City of Victoria, and the events leading up to a secret meeting to establish an anti-Qing revolutionary front by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. The meeting is of utmost importance, and has the supporters working to ensure that Dr. Sun Yat-Sen attends even in the face of assassins and anti-revolutionaries are working to stop him.

Although the focus of the film is always pointing to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen and in importance of the meeting, the almost exclusively from the point of view of the everyday people of Hong Kong. Not only their part if the bigger picture to support or deter the meeting, but their everyday lives of work, family and love. It gentle pairs the personal with the political, that all actions lead to the bigger pictures and all moments have importance on multiple levels. Motivations are usually very clear and hold strong not just for what they will bring today, but what they will bring in the future beyond. On the rare occasion where someone doesn't fit snugly on one side or the other, you can feel the rift they create in both.

I'm more of an action-over-history fan myself, so I was really coming to the film for the action sequences and the fact that Donnie Yen (Flash Point / Dao huo xian) is in it, but that's not the focus here. I did enjoy the action sequences but they aren't the central focus here and it takes quite a bit of lead up to get to them. The films strengths are definitely the long arc storytelling and bridging the strong and complex characters to a pinpoint in history. The art direction is quite extraordinary and I loved how real everything felt and looked.

It's absolutely beautiful to watch visually as well as to see the complex stories of everyday people unfold. The theme of showing the importance and affect that people can have on the impact on history, is inspiring and thought-provoking. Although not quite what I was expecting, Bodyguards & Assassins / Shi yue wei cheng was a compelling film to watch.

DVD Extras:
  • Behind the Scenes: Character (22 minutes)exploring the characters of The Revolutionary, The Tycoon, The Girl Fighter, The Troupe Master, The Rickshawman, The Young Girl, The Young Heir, The Hawker, The Inspector, The Beggar, The Assassin, The Mistress, The Gambler film clips, behind the scenes and interviews with director Teddy Chan, producer Peter Chan the actors including Simon Yam, Nicholas Tse on their characters on what they represent in the film and to the audience, and their relationships with each other within the film and noting when the actors are playing characters against type and a fair amount of behind the scenes on the fighting sequences; Set Design (3 minutes) film clips, behind the scenes and interviews including with production designer Kenneth Mak on the set creation of Hong Kong the 300 people that constructed set which would take half a year to create and includes reaction from people on the authenticity and vast scale of the set; Costume & Make Up (3 minutes) film clips, behind the scenes and interviews with director Teddy Chan, costume designer Dora Ng, special make-up designer Mark Garbarino, on the authenticity of the costumes, prosthetics & application of the make-up and the choices for specific characters including The Rickshawman and The Gambler (includes some footage also included in character behind the scenes); Action (4 minutes) film clips, behind the scenes and interviews with director Teddy Chen discussing process working with action director Wei Tung and the choice of wanting want it to look like a martial arts film and a the focus to be on realistic and fighting with fierceness, also includes interviews with producer Peter Chan, actor Mengke Bateer (includes some footage also included in Character behind the scenes). All behind the scenes features include English subtitles.
Bodyguard & Assassins is available on DVD as of March 15, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'd watch it again
I'd recommend it to fans of historically set films with action elements

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© Shannon Ridler, 2011

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Image: Donnie Yen in Bodyguards & Assassins. Courtesy of eOne Films

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Image: Yun Zhou as Ah Suen in Bodyguards & Assassins. Courtesy of eOne Films

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