Review: My Beloved Bodyguard (AKA: The Bodyguard) (2016)
Director: Sammo Hung
Starring: Sammo Hung, Andy Lau, Jacqueline Chan, Eddie Peng
Last time I saw Sammo Hung in a new film it was the tedious Rise of the Legend (2014). I’m pleased to say that My Beloved Bodyguard is an improvement, if not a really great film.
Hung plays a retired soldier and personal protection specialist, Ding, who’s settled into a small town on the border between Russia and China. His neighbour is a compulsive gambler and ne’er-do-well played by Andy Lau. As his daughter says, the only thing that’s good about him is his hair. Meanwhile, said daughter spends a lot of time at Grandpa Ding’s house, where the pair play monopoly together, eat ice-cream and stuff like that.
Ding’s back-story is that his own granddaughter went missing under his watch and he’s never forgiven himself. Naturally, an affectionate bond develops between the mysterious elderly hero and his neighbour’s highly-strung kid. His own daughter is also estranged from him and to top it off he suffers with dementia.
When Andy Lau’s character gets into trouble with a local crime boss he’s coerced into heading across the border on a job, to steal a bag of loot from a gang of Russian criminals. The job goes sideways and Lau ends up on the run from both the Russians and the Chinese gangs.
It’s the Chinese mob that seek to kidnap his daughter, thus Grandpa Ding steps in to protect her. To this end there is a decent first fight where Ding easily takes out a couple of thugs that break into his house looking for the girl, sending them back where they came from with more than a few cuts and bruises to remember him by.
The only other big fight is at the end, where Ding takes on the Chinese gang on their own turf and beats them all into submission before the hard-faced Russian gangsters show up to get their asses kicked by the old man as well.
The action is alright, but it does get a bit repetitive. Mostly all that Ding ever seems to do is break people’s arms, or yank them out of the sockets, which to be fair isn’t a bad technique. There’s a really cool moment where he fucks up one guy’s hand, breaking all of his fingers and leaving it all bent out of shape. I haven’t heard so many bones crack since The Raid 2. As a fan of old-school anime like Fist of the North Star, I also smiled at the X-Ray effect, which is occasionally employed to let us see the the bad guys’ bones snapping, I suspect this may be a bit gimmicky for some viewers.
There are some humorous moments, but some of those will appeal less to western audiences, as will a lot of the courteous nods to mainland China, for example, the archive footage of the People’s Liberation Army which rolls behind the opening credits. My missus, who’s Chinese, found it pretty funny at times and I did enjoy a scene near the end where Ding, with his bad leg, is pursuing the Chinese mob boss, who’s all fucked up as well, on foot, over some railway tracks. They’re both half finished by this point and the ridiculously slow pace of the pursuit was genuinely quite funny.
Something has to be said about Sammo Hung’s size: he’s absolutely enormous, making some of the scenes look slightly ridiculous. The story is also rather unoriginal, a little bloated (like Ding himself) and with a relatively predictable ending. But, at least he’s a real man with real talents. There was enough here for me to get behind it and see it through to the end, in spite of it’s numerous flaws. There’s also some impressive flourishes of hard, manly violence.
Some people will be put off by the sentimental story-telling, but I thought it was passable. Sammo Hung, gives an understated, but solid enough performance.