Review: Sammo Hung's THE BODYGUARD (2016) Hits Hard And Fast, But Not Often
I really, really wanted to like this movie. Sammo Hung has been one of my greatest inspiration to pursue a career into action filmmaking. Prodigal Son, Shanghai Express, even his Martial Law series are some of the staple action movies and shows of my childhood; but sadly, The Bodyguard (a.k.a. My Beloved Bodyguard) falls in between a love and hate relationship for me.
As I've said before, I wanted to like this movie. Right from the start, I was ready to have my heartstrings plucked with the idea of Ding (Sammo Hung) being an old soldier that lost his granddaughter, but it just sets up these forced, cutesy scenes with Cherry (Jacquelin Chan), the young daughter of his neighbor, Li (Andy Lau).
When Li tries to erase the debt he has with the local gang, Ding has to protect Cherry, who becomes his atonement for not saving his own granddaughter, which leads him on a bloody warpath through both Chinese and Russian gangs.
The concept sounds so badass but I guess the expectations were far different from what it was. With a slew of names like Yuen Wah and Yuen Biao, I really thought this would be an honest attempt at awesome Sammo-action at his age, but they were just there for cameo. There were also a lot of scenes with Cherry that tried to be endearing, but the character just came off too bratty for me to care for her. Andy Lau is always a treat for me to watch but even his character was only there just to feed the story along.
Though a lot of these things I've said are negatives, there was something touching and heartfelt from Sammo's acting. I have always been a fan of the movie trope of an old man returning to one last burn of glory for the sake of duty and I will admit that I teared up on the scene where he was telling the tragic back story of his character to his land lord; to which shortly after, he proceeded to destroy both Chinese and Russian gangs.
Of course, this wouldn't be the action of Sammo from his younger years but you can definitely see that the action was choreographed to minimize using a double for him. This is, essentially, Sammo badassery at his age and it's pretty damn awesome.
If I were to nitpick though, there were some editing choices that really harken back to the 90's that bothered me back then that I thought I'd never see again. During the action pieces, they would do this ghost blur effect with cut frames that ran rampant in movies like Jackie Chan's Mr. Nice Guy and Thunderbolt. I suppose it's a way to mask undercranking but I think I'd rather see that than this ghost effect. After all the decades of amazing work, I'm sure we all can give the great Mr. Hung some slack if he wants to digitally speed up his fight scenes, right?
Another thing that felt really weird was the use of x-ray action a la Mortal Kombat. I suppose it was to show that he was an old proficient fighter in his days and he had extensive knowledge in fighting but it felt like a fight gimmick when it happens.
Overall, I actually enjoyed this movie. I wished for more fights as a last hurrah for Sammo because I thought that he, more than anyone, would do something like that at his age. Nevertheless, this movie did satisfy me and I would recommend this movie to anyone that isn't expecting too much action for a Sammo flick but wants to feel him as an actor and not just a fighter.
The Bodyguard opens on digital August 2 before landing on Blu-ray and DVD on September 9 from Well Go USA Entertainment.