The Bodyguard (2016) (Super Bodyguard)

Wu Lin gets ready to run the gauntlet.

Wu Lin gets ready to run the gauntlet.

(2015) Action (Independent) Yue Song, Xing Yu, Becki Li, Wai-Man Chan, Jiang Boa-Cheng, Dong-Mei Xu, Colin Chou. Directed by Yue Song

NYAFF

When you become a bodyguard, you literally take the life of another person in your hands. It is your job to do everything within your power to protect that person and keep them safe from harm. For some bodyguards (and you would include the Secret Service in this category) that may be at the expense of your own life.

Wu Lin (Song) is a martial arts expert whose master has just passed away. Leaving the village here he has studied for years, he goes to the big city to search for his fellow apprentice Jiang Le (Yu) who had left under bitter circumstances. The master, you see, had chosen Wu Lin to wear the Iron Boots and learn the secrets of the Way of 105 Kicks. The Iron Boots add to his leg strength, making Wu Lin’s kicks lethal. He also cannot take them off, which probably makes Dr. Scholl’s a necessity.

Jiang is heartbroken to hear about the death of his master and now owns a bodyguard service and invites Wu Lin to be a part of it. Industrialist Jia-Shan Li hires Wu Lin to be the bodyguard for his daughter Fei-Fei (Li) after Wu Lin saves Jia-Shan from a group of thugs. Fei-Fei turns out to be a spoiled poor little rich girl who wants nothing to do with Daddy and less to do with Wu Lin.

As it turns out, she has great need of his services when it turns out that there are some pretty nasty bad guys after her. Wu Lin saves her once but eventually even his skills can’t protect her and she and her father are taken. The man orchestrating all the mayhem turns out to be someone intimately familiar with all the parties involved – and with an army standing in between him and Wu Lin, it will be a minor miracle if Wu Lin can save the girl (and her father) and defeat the bad guys.

Like many martial arts movies, the plot really isn’t very important. Basically, the story serves as an excuse to set up elaborate martial arts displays, and Song – who not only directs and stars but also co-wrote and edited this sucker – is a natural, reminding me (as he did other critics) of a young Jet Li. Song has the kind of potential to equal the onscreen achievements of that martial arts legend.

The fight scenes are pretty amazing, to be honest, with elements of the fantastic but solidly rooted in the crime procedurals that are all the rage in martial arts movies these days. Combining the two is certainly a smart move and Song utilizes the elements of both, integrating the two harmoniously and organically. Points for that.

Negative points for being a bit cliché in terms of the filmmaking; there is the “romance is blossoming” montage set at a beach house and set to flowery music as well as a villain so villainous that he all but crushes the skull of a kitten beneath an iron boot except that it’s Wu Lin literally wearing the iron boots, but never mind that.

Chinese cinema buffs will recognize the name of Collin Chou, but he has little more than a cameo appearance here and no fight scenes, so don’t let that fool you. Besides, there are plenty of amazing fights and jaw-dropping stunts to keep even the most jaded fan of the genre grinning ear to ear. The performances here are solid enough, although not spectacular (although Song shows tremendous promise) and while the dialogue is a bit cheesy, no more so than most Asian martial arts films.

Think of this as a Wuxia gangster film and you aren’t too far off the mark. This, incidentally, has nothing to do with the Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner film of the same name; the Chinese translation of the title is actually Super Bodyguard and there is also a Sammo Hung film also titled The Bodyguard coming out this year as well (which is also known as My Beloved Bodyguard – confused yet?) just to keep you on your toes.

In any case, fans of martial arts films will have much to appreciate here, getting to see a rising star in the genre show off his chops. There are a few cringe inducing moments (such as when a young boy whips out his thing to urinate on Wu Lin) but not enough not to recommend this, particularly to those who like their action with Asian spice.

REASONS TO GO: The stunts range from the spectacular to the sublime. A nice mash-up of genres.
REASONS TO STAY: A little bit disjointed. Cliché in places.
FAMILY VALUES: There’s some brief nudity, some rude humor and plenty of violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT:  Yu was, prior to his acting career, an actual Shaolin Monk.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 6/25/16: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Proof of Life
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT: High-Rise

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