Thursday, February 21, 2013

Melodrama and Action

Bodyguards and Assassins (2009) is kind of like two movies: a historical melodrama and a modern action film. Unfortunately, we were only looking for one of these.

B&A tells the story of Hong Kong in the 1920s, when the corrupt imperial government ruthlessly assassinated all dissidents and revolutionaries. A newspaper editor and his wealthy benefactor learn that Dr. Sun Yat Sen will be visiting to unify the opposition and topple the government. The editor wants to help protect Dr. Sun, but his rich friend is more of a supporter of revolution - he doesn't want to be involved. Unfortunately, his son does want to get involved.

In the end, they become decoys for Dr. Sun, travelling openly around Hong Kong in closed rickshaws while Dr. Sun goes to his meeting in secret. And of course the decoys draw fire.

This is a 2hr+ movie. The first hour and a half consists of political discussions and agonizing decisons about risking your life and your family for a cause. The last half hour or so was mainly modern action, fast, slick and hyper-violent, with a few quiet moments to let the horror of that violence sink in. The first part, the melodrama, was well written, well acted, affecting. The action was about as good as it gets.

The thing is, we didn't really feel like watching a political or family drama, no matter how good. I'm sorry, but we wanted a good old-fashioned mindless romp. When we got to the action, the horrific realism of the consequences took most of the fun out of it. This is not Cowboys vs. Aliens.

In conclusion, probably a very good movie, if that's what you are looking for.

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