Shi yue wei cheng
Hong Kong/China, 2009, 138 minutes
Sun, May 02 / 6:45 / Castro / BODY02C
Hong Kong circa 1906 existed in a strange political limbo, ruled by the British Empire but nestled alongside dynastic China. While the ancient Qing Dynasty was turning its back on the ever-encroaching modern world, many Chinese were embracing the ideas of republicanism and democracy, and Hong Kong’s in-betweenness made it a freewheeling haven for political exiles and revolutionaries. Bodyguards and Assassins tells the story of a 1906 visit to Hong Kong by exile, revolutionary and future “Father of the Nation” Sun Yat-sen. The Empress Dowager orders his assassination, Sun’s Hong Kong followers determine to protect him and thus is an epic born. This is an action movie as only Hong Kong can do it, with tremendous panache, a wide streak of sentimentality and, of course, spine-snapping martial arts combat. The film is a glorious vision of a teeming, ramshackle, turn-of-the-century Hong Kong, achieved with massive sets, seamless computer graphics and a huge all-star cast of absolutely terrific actors (and about a million extras). Anchoring the sprawling dramatis personae is the great Wang Xueqi (whose filmography extends back to some of the great Chinese Fifth Generation films) as businessman-turned-revolutionary Li Yutang. The first half of the movie is an intricate political thriller, as the various factions maneuver into position and plenty of foreshadowing plot points click into place; the second half is, well, just plain thrilling. It’s a rousing, electrifying mix of history, revolution and kung fu.
Presented in association with Center for Asian American Media. North American Premiere.