August 30, 2016
Wo de te gong ye ye
Sammo Hung - 2016
Well Go USA Entertainment BD Region A
Jackie Chan was the first actor approached to play the part of Ding, the former elite security officer who finds himself losing his memory. Chan wasn't available, so Sammo Hung was tapped for the role. Hung probably should have been considered in the first place. Even at his peak, Sammo Hung never looked anything like the kind of guy who could seriously kick ass. In this film, extra padding on the stomach, with an awkward gait as he walks, Hung projects the kind of vulnerability needed for this role. Hung also directed, his first credited gig in seventeen years, where the influence of younger filmmakers shows up.
I do wish the English language title was still My Beloved Bodyguard to help distinguish Hung's film from the several other films with the same, generic, title. Also, I did have some problems with the screenplay which is somewhat lazy, simply explaining Ding's memory loss as dementia, as well as giving the disappearance of one of the characters a too easy explanation.
The film begins with a brief introduction of the Central Security Bureau, the army of guards that protected the top officials of the Chinese Communist Party. There is a montage of documentary footage that concludes with some photos and footage of Richard Nixon's visit to China in 1972. A photo of the guards includes one with the young Ding standing near the President. Later, Ding discusses his unhappy marriage, and describes his former father-in-law as a "bourgeois capitalist". Both of these moments made me think of films that I'd really like to see - Nixon's visit to China from the Chinese point of view, and a film about an unreconstructed member of the Red Guard who is appalled by the changes in contemporary China.
The film takes place in a town in Northeast China, near the Russian border. The story here has the retired Ding finding himself as the guardian of the young daughter of a gambler. The gambler, in order to pay back his debts, goes to Vladivostok, where he steals a bag full of jewels from a Russian gangster. The jewels are stolen, but the gambler finds himself caught between rival Russian and Chinese gangs. Protecting the daughter, Ding finds himself caught battling both gangs.
Grady Hendrix wrote about how Hung films fights in "Film Comment". Whether it's a refection of Hung's age, or a concern of safety, the main scene with Hung fighting both Chinese and Russian gangsters is filmed in a way that is similar to the overly edited fight scenes in Hollywood films. The difference is that there is still a visual logic to how the fight is edited. Essentially the fight is broken down to one or two movements per shot. We see hung and his opponent, or a pair of opponents. Hung also has chosen to digitally enhance close-ups of fingers or legs broken and in pain. The overall effect seems like a compromise over the kind of sloppy editing favored in some Hollywood films with the misguided idea of how to visually convey on-screen chaos.
Not that it was necessary, but Hung called in several friends for supporting roles. Andy Lau, who was also one of the producers, plays the gambler. Tsui Hark, Dean Shek and Karl Maka play a trio of oldsters who sit out by the railroad tracks, observing the action. While watching The Bodyguard, I was struck by the idea that at age 64, Sammo Hung may well be transitioning away from appearances as an action star to be a character actor, and perhaps spend more time behind the camera. That the final action scene features Eddie Peng, previously seen with Hung in Rise of the Legend, suggests that Sammo Hung is making way for a new generation of martial arts stars.
Posted by Peter Nellhaus at August 30, 2016 03:56 PM