Bodyguards and Assassins (UK - BD RB)
Marcus ducks and weaves through all the fighting bodyguards and assassins
1906. Hong Kong. Dr. Sun Yat-sen is due to arrive in the British Colony of Hong Kong to discuss plans to overthrow the corrupt Qing Dynasty with a group of anti-Qing revolutionaries. The Qing Court dispatches an elite army of assassins to eliminate the threat that Dr. Sun Yat-sen represents to their rule.
Friends and sympathisers to the Doctor’s cause come together to protect the revolutionary, all skilled in martial arts and all acting as Sun’s bodyguards. See that title doesn’t sound so goofy now does it?
Bodyguards and Assassins provides a dramatic tale with a historical epic backdrop and for something that has the advertising of yet another martial arts period piece it’s actually more focused on the main characters' journeys and personal twists and turns than it is with showing off the array of fighting skills that the cast have to offer.
With that said, it doesn’t mean that the martial arts are lacking. Donnie Yen and the other martial artists all impress, especially in the bigger skirmishes (which make up the majority of the last act) and all are captured with a steady hand by director Teddy Chan, who not only makes these guys look cool but sells it with a surprisingly natural feel.
For an action movie, the story moves at quite a slow controlled pace. Emotional and dramatic arcs are left to play out and bigger scenes are presented as incredibly important turn of events within these characters' lives with a real play on how the times are on the brink of changing and China’s people are ready to fight for it. For me, I’m not all that fussed with many of these period piece martial arts movies and Bodyguards and Assassins hasn’t really done a lot to change my feelings but I will say that it did manage to make me a little less dismissive of this martial arts sub genre and I really respected the attention to detail Teddy Chan had for the material.
While Bodyguards and Assassins is a clear leap forward from what standard definition can offer, it’s not the strongest of high definition transfers either. The image has a nice looks to it, but isn’t really that sharp or detailed outside of close ups and the muted black levels give the transfer a little bit of a soft feel in places.
The strong green presence in both set design and visual style takes away a little from the warmer colours, with reds and blues looking a little washed out in places and exterior shots not really glowing with the HD sheen we’ve grown used to. Bodyguards and Assassins is by no means a bad transfer, but it’s not really one that pops and the closer you look the less apparent that becomes.
The strongest thing here is the use of atmospheric sounds. Ticking clocks, busy streets, parties and general ambience all work well in the rear speakers and dialogue is generally strong in the fronts. However the issue I had with the dialogue is that it was obviously recorded separately and many of the scenes have an almost dubbed feel with the lip synching not quite matching the recording of the dialogue.
The score is also strong and plays a big part is generating more emotion from the scenes especially when characters are at risk of death by assassin.
There are four behind the scenes featurettes, the first being ‘Character’ (22:11 HD) which is the meatiest of the set. It features a lot of talk hyping up the movie with talk of the Bodyguards and Assassins being like 24 (which it’s not) or a Playstation game.
‘Set Design’ (02:54 HD) was a very impressive inside look. Showing how meticulous they were to recreate old footage of the actual 1900s and how the planning took eight years.
‘Costume and Make Up’ (03:39 HD) looks at the many weird and wonderful looks of the era and lastly ‘Action’ (04:30), you guessed it, looks at the set pieces and preparation for the fighting scenes.
Bodyguards and Assassins is yet another martial arts period piece, and while I’m not the sub genre’s biggest fan of late this movie did a lot to sing its praises. The story is a slow burner with plenty of interesting characters and the build up to a more action filled final act is a nice road to a dramatic pay off.
Generally the A/V are both good, if not all that spectacular and the small batch of features compliment the movie well, so bigger fans of the style and setting should get plenty out of this release.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 31st May 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Mandarin, LPCM 2.0 Stereo Mandarin
Easter Egg: No
Director: Teddy Chan
Cast: Donnie Yen, Leon Lai, Xueqi Wang
Genre: Action and Drama
Length: 138 minutes
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