The Noble Review: THE BODYGUARD (2016)

Sammo Hung plays Ding, a retired Beijing bodyguard, who is now living in a small town situated in the northeast of China on the border of Russia and North Korea. His character suffers from dementia and is plagued with guilt from a past experience. In this story, he befriends a young girl, Jacqueline Chen – the daughter of troubled Andy Lau. Thus, as Andy Lau gets in trouble with a lethal gang, Sammo has deep involvement through his special relationship with the young girl.

Overall, The Bodyguard is a solid dramatic action film. It is the first time Sammo has directed a film for about twenty years, so it’s been a while coming. It is heavier on the drama than the action but for this film, this is a good film. The first hour of the film has very little in terms of fight sequences. This didn’t bother me. I was pulled in by the touching story and well developed characters that I forgot I was watching a Sammo film. I think Sammo deserves credit for pulling off a strong acting performance. His direction in this film is also pretty good, keeping things interesting with nice developments in the story. Not too many twists happen but there are lots of satisfying scenes.

The story itself isn’t groundbreaking but it’s better than a lot of Sammo’s previous work in terms of scriptwriting. It is a mature film. You ought to feel for some of the characters here, especially Sammo. His relationship with his landlady is enjoyable and fun. His relationship with his neighbour’s daughter is very touching without being ridiculous or creepy. This is the core of the film. It works.

The action is probably one of the worst things about the film. The build up and context of the action scenes are very well done but the actual quality of fighting is not great. This is a big disappointment considering Sammo’s track record. I’m a big fan of Sammo myself, after following him for sixteen years. However, we get treated to a small slice. Sammo’s choreography is pretty good here with some solid bone breaks, knife dodging and handwork. The fighting, however, is somewhat ruined with an overuse of that nasty choppy slow motion that you see in some of his late nighties work. The editing probably has too many cuts too as well as the camerawork being too close up. It’s difficult to see a lot of things. What a shame. Yuen Biao and Yuen Wah are also totally underused. Another shame for us Kung Fu fans.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Bodyguard as a film. It’s definitely better than Sammo’s previous two directorial films: Mr Nice Guy and Once Upon a Time in China & America. A good story, good acting and the directing for the dramatic scenes are all of a high enough standard. It’s certainly being very well received here in China (where I saw it in a fully packed cinema screen), and it’s no surprise. To sum up: if you go into the film expecting a well put together dramatic film with touching moments, you’ll be satisfied. However, if you go into the film expecting another quality Sammo action film, you’ll be bitterly disappointed.

Graeme Noble is an acclaimed independent filmmaker and actor, and represents one-half of his award-winning independent film company, Noble Brothers Productions with brother John-William Noble. For more information on his work, visit their official Facebook fan page!


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