Thursday, August 19, 2010

'The Bodyguard from Beijing'
should stay at home

The Bodyguard from Beijing (aka "The Defender") (1994)
Starring: Jet Li, Christy Chung, Collin Chou, Kent Cheng, and William Chu
Director: Corey Yuen
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

When the wife of a wealthy Hong Kong business man (Chung) ends up as the only surviving witness to a murder, the communist Chinese government dispatches an agent (Li) to protect her until the trial. It turns out to be a very difficult assignment, as the woman doesn't want to be saddled with a bodyguard, and the men behind the murder intend to do everything they can to make sure there are no surviving witnesses come the trial.

Bitchy, uncooperative women are a mainstay of action movies, especially when the threat to their lives is real and so apparent that only the most moronic of individuals wouldn't follow the advice and instructions of those charged with protecting them. But I don't think there has been a movie made with a character more obnoxious, bitchy, and just downright repulsive and unlikeable than Michelle Yeung (played by Christy Chung) in than in "The Bodyguard from Beijing."

Not only does she initially go out of her way to make the job and life difficult for her government-provided protector, but then she decides she wants to jump his bones and starts trying to seduce him. This is a rotten character, through and through, who is not at all cute and funny and likeable, as I think the filmmakers were trying to make her. It's a character that all by herself makes this movie a miserable experience, and I found myself wishing more than once that Alan (the character played by Jet Li) would put a bullet in her and just blame the assassins.

Aside from this horrible character, the film is further burdened with comic relief characters--mostly in the form of dim Hong Kong police officers--that aren't all that funny. While they aren't as teeth-grindingly awful as Christy Chung's character, they are boring dead weight that another strike against the film. The combination of the bitchy woman and the unfunny comic relief is almost enough for everyone to stay away from this film.

However, Jet Li does a good job as the most patient and stoic government security agent on the face of the planet, and the two major action sequences are spectacular. Some viewers may wish that Li engaged in more of his usual martial arts instead of the gun-play in present in this film, but the outrageousness of the entire janitorial staff of a mall seemed to have been replaced by mop- and bucket-carrying assassins. Plus, when the martial arts did get broken out for real in the film's second major action set-piece, it turns out to be have been worth the wait... especially because we get to see venetian blinds used as an offensive weapon. (Not anything can quite make up for the misery that is Christy Chung's character....)

This is a film that anyone but the most entertainment-starved fans of Jet Li in particular or 1990s Hong Kong action flicks in general can safely skip.

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