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DID YOU READ

“Bodyguards and Assassins”: The revolution will be verbalized.

“Bodyguards and Assassins”: The revolution will be verbalized. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 New York Asian Film Festival.

For its first languid hour, the extremely talented cast of “Bodyguards and Assassins” lecture each other about the importance of the Chinese Revolution. No one speaks to anyone else; everyone just stands around giving speeches. Once they’ve made their point at great length, we’re treated to an extremely well-crafted and thrilling chase and fight sequence through the convincingly recreated streets of 1900s Hong Kong.

The two parts are so different, it’s hard to believe one director, Teddy Chan, made both of them. Watching this movie, I was reminded of the schemes my parents would dream up to get me to do my homework: sit through this boring lesson about Dr. Sun Yat-Sen and you can watch this awesome martial arts movie.


Sun is known as “The Father of Modern China” for his role in bringing about the end of the Qing Dynasty. In “Bodyguards and Assassins,” he’s on his way to Hong Kong for a strategy meeting with leaders from all over China, but the Emperor learns of his plans and sends his men to intercept and kill him.

Once Sun arrives, it’s up to a group of revolutionaries led by newspaper editor Chen (Tony Leung Ka-fai) and bankrolled by businessman Boss Li (Wang Xueqi) to distract and delay the assassins by drawing their attention for one hour. Chen and Li put together a “Dirty Dozen”-ish team of misfits to the suicide mission, including a former Shaolin monk turned tofu chef (former NBA player Mengke Bateer), a beggar who was once a martial arts master (Leon Lai) and a disgraced policeman (a sadly underutilized Donnie Yen).

06282010_body2.jpgAlong the way, the characters articulate their perspective on the revolution: how it will will create a world in which everyone is equal, and how it will use the sacrifices of an older generation in exchange for the well-being of the next, and how it requires the unity and national pride of all Chinese. Regardless of what you think about the message, the problem’s the painfully blunt way “Bodyguards and Assassins” delivers it. The chase sequence has moments of beauty and power which only make the earlier talking even more redundant. When people are sacrificing their lives for a cause, we don’t need them to tell us how important it is. Their actions tell us for them.

Even disregarding their very different tell-then-show strategies, the two halves of the movie make strange bedfellows. The first part aims for an almost documentary-style recreation of what life was like for these turn-of-the-century Hong Kong revolutionaries. But something tells me the second part — which includes free-running, wirework and a hobo with magical martial arts powers — deviates ever so slightly from the historical record. It would take someone with a cold, cold heart not to enjoy a film about kung fu revolutionaries, but it would also someone with a very patient mind not to be turned off by the rampant speechifying.

“Bodyguards and Assassins” screened Sunday at NYAFF as part of a double feature with “Development Hell,” which was billed as a documentary about “Bodyguards”‘ troubled production but is really more of a meandering tour through the trenches of Hong Kong cinema. There are plenty of details about previous iterations of the project that were cancelled are provided, but “Development Hell” is still frustratingly incomplete.

It ends on a cliffhanger — will the film ever get made? I wonder… — and is padded with tons of irrelevant anecdotes from industry types. I could tell you everything you need to know about “Development Hell” in three minutes; it takes the movie fifty-five. Essentially, it suffers the same problem as the film its chronicling: it overstays its welcome and overstates its importance.

“Bodyguards and Assassins” does not yet have US distribution. It plays Tuesday, June 29 at 1:00 PM at the Walter Reade Theater in New York City.

[Photos: “Bodyguards and Assassins,” China Film Group, 2009]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…