Review: THE BODYGUARD 特工爺爺 (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Review: THE BODYGUARD 特工爺爺 (2016)

Ding (Sammo Hung) is a retired Central Security Bureau (CSB) officer from Beijing who now lives a quiet life in a small town near the Russian border. A recluse who also suffers from an early stage of dementia, Ding subsequently formed an unlikely friendship with a young girl named Cherry (Jacqueline Chan Pui-Yin). Her father, Li (Andy Lau), is a compulsive gambler heavily in debt who gets himself into trouble after messing up with the local and the Russian gangsters over a bag of jewellery. When Cherry mysteriously disappear, Ding sets out to settle the score all by himself.

REVIEW: For the record, the English title of THE BODYGUARD has nothing to do with the famous Kevin Costner and the late Whitney Houston's 1992 movie of the same name. Instead, this movie echoes the similarity of the geriatric action hero subgenre first populated by Liam Neeson in the TAKEN trilogy. On paper, such genre approach fits well for an aging action legend like Sammo Hung to make a major comeback as a lead actor after spending decades relegating into supporting roles. Not only that, THE BODYGUARD also marked his long-awaited comeback to the director's chair since Jackie Chan's MR. NICE GUY and Jet Li's ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA AND AMERICA in 1997. However, the result turns out to be a major disappointment. Let's just say if you're expecting an all-out action showcase, this is definitely not the movie.

What we have here is rather a low-key drama about how Sammo's character going through his daily life while suffering from dementia. We see him befriended with the young girl named Cherry, who loves to enjoy an outdoor fishing trip with him and enjoying ice cream together. On the other hand, he is being eyed by his landlady Madam Park (Li Qinqin), who has been harbouring a crush on him. Personally, I don't mind with all the set-up to make way for a more character-driven approach as long as the movie manages to engage the viewers emotionally. Unfortunately, the story is nothing more than a long-winded slog that feels like a chore to sit through.

The acting performances are all mediocre, including Sammo's dementia character that is all surface but little depth within. Even the much-ballyhooed "all-star reunion" cameo appearances by the likes of the already-defunct former Cinema City bosses (Dean Shek, Karl Maka and Tsui Hark) as well as martial arts veterans Yuen Wah, Yuen Qiu and Yuen Biao are given little things to do other than showing up in front of the screen. If that's not bad enough, the movie also fails to make good use of Yuen Wah, Yuen Qiu or Yuen Biao to have either of them engage in any fighting scene for old time's sake.

With the story and the characters fail to sustain a satisfying level of interest, you would figure the action scenes are the least redeeming factor here. After all, Sammo Hung is also in charge of the action choreography, whose past efforts like KUNG FU HUSTLE and the first two IP MAN movies, are both well-staged and exciting. But shockingly, the action scenes in THE BODYGUARD are badly edited with lots of tight close-up and annoying slow-motion blurry effect. Even though it's fun watching him breaking bones in a violent yet unapologetic manner, such result makes his choreography all the more difficult to enjoy for.

Sammo Hung's long-awaited return to the director's chair in 19 years is a slow and uninvolving action drama.

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