Bodyguards and Assassins revolved around the returning of an exiled Chinese revolutionary leader, Sun Yat Sen (Zhang HanYu), to the City of Victoria or modern day Hong Kong which was then a British colony. His intention was to meet with the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance leaders from 13 provinces in China about the upcoming plans of insurrection against the crumbling and corrupted Qing Imperial Court or Dynasty (清朝). The date was October, 1905 and 4 years earlier, Yang QuYun (Jacky Cheung) who was the leader of Revive China Society was gunned down in front of his students by a Qing Imperial Court’s assassin. The Empress Dowager in the Forbidden City had been actively tried to suppress anti-Manchu movements by campaigning political assassinations. Next on their list was Sun Yat Sen.
The news about Sun Yat Sen’s impending return to City of Victoria was leaked and under the direct decree of the Empress Dowager, the Forbidden City sent a group of assassins led by General Yan XiaoGuo (Hu Jun) to eliminate him. Meanwhile, Chen XiaoBai (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) who was a revolutionary and a chief editor of China Daily newspaper arrived in the city a few days prior Sun Yat Sen’s arrival. Fearing Sun Yat Sen would be the next Forbidden City political assassination’s victim, Chen XiaoBai consulted a local tycoon, Li YuTang (Wang XueQi). Li YuTang had been supporting the revolutionary movement by providing financial aids and Chen XiaoBai needed his help once more to finance the protection details. Unbeknown to Li Yutang, his son Li ChongGuang (Wang Bo Chieh), was an avid admirer and follower of Chen XiaoBai’s revolutionary movements. Neither the father nor the son knew they each supported the same cause.
Meanwhile upon arrival in the city, General Yan XiaoGuo utilized a local constable, Shen ChongYang (Donnie Yen), as their spy for Forbidden City’s clandestine mission in the City of Victoria. Shen ChongYang was a downtrodden compulsive gambler whose wife, Yue Ru (Fan BingBing), and his daughter left him to be Li YuTang’s concubine. General Yan XiaoGuo managed to use Shen ChongYang’s weaknesses in order for him to comply with gathering all sort of information regarding Chinese Revolutionary Alliance’s activities in the city and other misdeed. One such information was the location of a former rebel General Fang Tian (Simon Yan) and assurance of no constables within a distance of the vicinity.
Fang Tian and Chen XiaoBai collaborated to plan for the safeguard of Sun Yat Sen’s perilous secret meeting with the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance leaders. Three days leading up to Sun Yat Sen’s arrival complication ensued when the two were ambushed by General Yan XiaoGuo’s band of assassins. Chen XiaoBai was kidnapped and Fang Tian along with his men were killed leaving out any sort of protection for Sun Yat Sen. Fang Tian however did manage to save his daughter, Fang Hong (Li YuChun), prior the massacre.
In the wake of the attack on Fang Tian and his men, the Chief Inspector of Colonial Police Shi MiFu (Eric Tsang) was ordered by his superiors to shut down China Daily newspaper for its role in inciting revolution propaganda within the city boundary. This action caused Li YuTang to reveal himself from behind the scene as revolutionary supporter and he vowed to carry on with Chen XiaoBai’s plan to protect Sun Yat Sen. He also gained a new found respect from his son, Li ChongGuang. The mission entailed a protection at all cost along 13 blocks of City of Victoria’s central district. The fate of the future revolution was now in the hand of Li YuTang to assemble bodyguards for Sun Yat Sen’s safety against Forbidden City’s assassins.
The first bodyguard Li YuTang asked was a disgraced former Qing Prince, Liu YuBai (Leon Lai). He was a formidable warrior prior being banished from the Palace for falling in love with his father’s concubine (Michelle Reis). Liu YuBai agreed with the task in return for his family’s heirloom, a black iron fan which Li YuTang had kept. Follow suit were a handful of volunteers for the protection mission which included Liu YuTang’s loyal rickshaw runner, A’Si (Nicholas Tse); a street hawker who was an expelled ShaoLin disciple, Wang FuMing (Mengke Bateer); General Fang Tian’s daughter, Fang Hong; and Shen ChongYang. For his redemption, Shen ChongYang obliged after being coerced by his former wife for the sake of his daughter.
Back in a confinement on a secret location, Chen XiaoBai was able to escape from his captors. It was also revealed within this confinement that General Yan XiaoGuo was actually Chen XiaoBai’s former student. The two had different perspectives regarding what was best to revive China and its 400 million people, especially with the turmoil with the invasion of Eight-Nation Alliance. The former mentor also learned from the former student a different view on how the revolution could succeed. Once Chen XiaoBai returned, he slightly altered the safeguard mission by using a decoy to divert the assassins away from Sun Yat Sen. This would also mean that many lives of the revolutionary members would be sacrificed for the greater cause. Li ChongGuang posed as a decoy and he volunteered for the risky pivotal task against his father’s wish.
On the day of Sun Yat Sen’s arrival, a legion of ruthless Forbidden City’s assassins surrounded the 13 blocks of City of Victoria’s central district. The local Colonial Police was instructed by the British governor to turn a blind eye with the assassination plot. The volunteered bodyguards knew with scant of protection by the local constables that they will have to fight until the last man standing in order to secure Sun Yat Sen’s safety. Both sides took heavy casualties during the 5 hours plight of Sun Yat Sen’s decoy through the 13 blocks. In the end, both General Yan XiaoGuo and the revolutionaries sacrificed their lives with each believing for a better China in a different way.
Teddy Chen’s 12 all star casts Bodyguards and Assassins succeeded in dramatizing of a pivotal moment in Chinese history. He didn’t try to turn a historic event into another epic action movie. Despite the recent prominence of Donnie Yen, he wasn’t the leading star of Bodyguards and Assassins. With the caliber of actors and actresses casted for this movie, they can easily demand the leading role; but each of them eloquently developed their cameo like characters and built relationship between the characters. They all have little memorable moments mapped in together nicely developing their characters throughout the movie such as the rickshaw driver who tinkled his bell letting his loved one to look up the store window, a torn sleeve to remind the sacrifice of father for a greater cause, a love for his little daughter turning around a gambler life, etc. All these simple moments added up to why Bodyguards and Assassins is highly entertaining masterpiece.
Bodyguard and Assassins by far is the best performance for Nicholas Tse played as a simple minded rickshaw driver who valued friendship and loyalty. Nicholas Tse proved himself that he can be a solid actor without acting in an idol like role. And no role is too small for Hu Jun who is like always gave another outstanding performance whether he plays as hero or villain. This time around he is the fearless and merciless leader of the assassins.
After all the intense drama building up to climatic ending, the last 45 minutes of the movie is an action extravaganza fight fest. Each fight sequence is beautifully crafted from the rooftop melee to street brawl. It certainly is not an action pack movie but rather a unique emotional drama. Plenty entertaining enjoyment and certainly audience won’t be disappointed.
Donnie Yen … The Gambler/Shen ChongYang
Leon Lai … The Beggar/Liu YuBai
Wang XueQi … The Tycoon/Li YuTang
Tony Leung Ka-Fai … The Revolutionary/Chen XiaoBai
Nicholas Tse … The Rickshaw/A’Si
Hu Jun … The Assassin/General Yan XiaoGuo
Eric Tsang … The Policeman/Shi MiFu
Fan BingBing … The Concubine/Yue Ru
Simon Yam … The Fugitive/Fang Tian
Cung Le … The Henchman/Sa ZhenShan
Zhou Yun … The Fiance/A’Chun
Li YuChun … The Diva/Fang Hong
Wang Bo Chieh … The Heir/Li ChongGuang
Mengke Bateer … The Hawker/Wang FuMing
Phillip Ng … Assassin Bai Que
Jacky Cheung … Yang QuYun
Zhang HanYu … Sun Yat Sen
Michelle Reis … Liu YuBai’s Lover
Lu Zhong … Sun Yat Sen’s Mother
John Shum … A’Chun’s Father
Xing Yu … Assassin Hei Man
Chinese Title: 十月圍城
Director: Teddy Chen
Screenplay: Chun Tin Nam, James Yuen Sai Sang, Chan Wai, Guo Jun Li, Wu Bing, Joyce Chan Ka Yi
Producer: Peter Chan, Huang JianXin, Jojo Hui Yuet Chun
Director of Photography: Arthur Wong Ngok Tai, Peter Ngor Chi Kwan, Lai Yiu Fai, Liu Ai Dong, Yeung Jan Yu
Action Choreographer: Stephen Tung Wai, Lee Tat Chiu
Art Director: Ken Mak
Image Designer: Dora Ng Lei Lo, Cindy Cheung Fong Dai
Composer: Comfort Chan Kwong Wing, Peter Kam Pau Tat
Soundtrack: Li YuChun (Ashes)
Filming Locations: SongJiang, ShangHai
Release Date: December 18, 2009
Run Time: 2 hour 19 minutes
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