At first sight this new British production has some real talent behind it. Bodyguard: A New Beginning also looks the goods with a screen bursting with saturated primary colours. It’s obvious the film-makers are more than familiar with the Hong Kong crime-action genre. And that’s the picture’s problem: it’s a movie knock-off – Bodyguard is slick and ultimately very empty.
It doesn’t break any new ground with its well worn tale of triad gangs fighting for control of Hong Kong’s lucrative drug and vice markets. Japanese newcomer Kai wants to be number one which means the city’s current crime lord, Wong, is under siege from the “foreigner”. Both are played by well known Japanese and Cantonese actors, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Memoirs of a Geisha) as Kai, and Richard Ng (Winners and Sinners) is Wong.
Their ongoing battles have the added intrigue of family members trying to pick the winning side. Leung (Vincent Tze) is Wong’s right hand man who, albeit belatedly, becomes the central character when he is despatched to England to protect Wong’s daughter, who no-one in Hong Kong seemed to know existed. He is being pursued by two of the dumbest hit-men in crime film history. Their M.O. is to either shoot or beat the shite out of their unlucky victims, and then become angry when limp bodies can’t answer their questions.
As said, Bodyguard looks good but after a while it was all becoming a tad familiar. It was pretty clear the film’s cinematographers had spent a long time watching and taking in the visual style of Daniel Lee’s Dragon Squad, one of the top action flicks from HK in 2005.
Bodyguard does eventually develop some much needed dramatic momentum following a series of gangland murders, culminating in the cold blooded killing of a young girl. The inevitable mass confrontation between the warring crime families is soon set up in an expansive Hard-Boiled– like warehouse. What follows is a brief flurry of not-very-realistic or well-choreographed violence, and then cut to a floor space littered with dead bodies. What is going on here?! Did the film-makers run out of money or ideas? Or both?!
It’s a poor vehicle in which to mention this but Bodyguard looks to be the final film for HK character actor Shing Fui-On who in late August died after a long battle with cancer. He has two short scenes as a loyal lieutenant to Wong. Veteran fans of Canto crime cinema will fondly remember Shing Fui-On as one of the leading screen villains during the late 1980s to mid-90s. He’s best known to Western audiences as the crazed gangster Johnny Weng in John Woo’s The Killer.
With its surface slickness and bolted-on visuals, Bodyguard:A New Beginning will probably appeal to an undemanding audience – which I suspect is the target market.