Bodyguard A New Beginning (2008)
Directed by: Chee Keong-Cheung
Following up a rather fine echo of the tournament movie a la Bloodsport in the form of Underground with a hybrid of the UK produced indie-action and the Hong Kong gangster tale out of the 80s/90s, Bodyguard A New Beginning from Chee Keong-Cheung possibly has an aim that is modest (same could be said of Underground) in terms of what audience to hit. I.e. the audience looking for a bit of escapism via the movieworld of gangsters and asskicking men in general. In terms of that, the movie could very much be argued to be a success but for those of us truly impressed with the modest means of Underground that became quite emotionally poignant at points, Bodyguard A New Beginning does disappoint. But re-aligning your sight helps and a pat on the pack of encouragement to Chee and the independent crew is well deserved.
When American gangster Kai (Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa) aims to try and join forces with the Hong Kong triads run by Wong (Richard Ng), betrayal within Wong's group starts happening as they feel the old man has lost it when he refuses the proposal to co-operate. Especially Wong's son Yuen (Carl Ng) voices his disapproval of this strategy. Fearing a past connection will be in danger, Wong dispatches bodyguard Leung (Vincent Sze) to England to protect Chloe (Stephanie Langton). Soon henchmen do turn up on the streets of England and the unknowing, down on her luck girl is stuck in a global turf war...
Facing a short running time and a basic frame story gets us going and Chee Keong-Cheung's and Oliver Morran's script scores in terms of suitable structure to the genre-material at hand. Carrying out the plot where characters are not in the know (Chloe) and just performing duty (Leung), for these two characters it gives way to emotional breakdowns in a way. Chloe in terms of being dragged into something she does not understand (until late in the film) and Leung encountering feelings first rather than duty first. It's basic, corny on paper but done with enough heart to give it approval. Also dealing with the father/son angle (in real life Richard is the father of Carl Ng as well), you can't ask for more clichés as betrayal starts the emotional rollercoaster ride between these two. It's pretty much to the point and functional but with an ever so slightly above average skill in making us take these matters as seriously as Chee Keong-Cheung wants.
This to the point build up we're expecting does take place across the whole movie (which is logical) but is marred by a rather slow pace that has us disconnecting to the story points at hand as we DO and SHOULD expect some hard hitting action. There's evidence early of hard hitting hurt being dealt and certainly you're a bit scarred in terms of expectations if you liked Underground but Bodyguard A New Beginning doesn't set the small screen on fire as much as I would personally have liked. There's basically missing thorough conviction to make the dialogue AND action impact in a hard manner.
Favourable impressions of actor Vincent Sze is definitely there (and Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa snarls and growls through his performance amusingly well) as he's a wonderful stone face as he's silent whenever with Chloe initially (he's asked not to make contact unless necessary) and the very hard looking henchmen complete with designer specs are a good inclusion as this genre can't entertain without them. But the lack of true sparks when utilizing these age old tools, that includes the always evident battles of honor and loyalty, are the most evident when the action comes off as bit soft. Oh there's some brutal highlights and lighting quick fast pieces that will make you wince (furthermore the film turns quite brutal at times as it features a rape/murder scene and a child being killed) and clarity makes a favourable impression but placing the bodyguard and henchmen in these situations often, the film seems a bit stumped over what to do other than straightforward fighting. Which is all fine but lack of distinction and engagement in this viewer anyway means only the likes of Mark Strange (Underground) flashes some fine skill on occasion.
Gaining more momentum towards the end when kicking the story into overdrive, Bodyguard A New Beginning does leave an impression there which furthers Chee Keong-Cheong's rating as a storyteller. It becomes quite the downbeat portrayal of sympathetic and unsympathetic honor in the triad world and there's definite interest in these conflicted characters. For those viewers wanting action, the aim is quite a bit off. More tuned is the aim for those wanting a standard gangster movie that for once engages so there's points to Bodyguard A New Beginning that should not be dismissed. Us that are moviefans first rather than actionfans, won't.
The DVD (Action Extreme, Region 2):
Video: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen.
Audio: English/Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0.
Subtitles: Imbedded English subtitles for the Cantonese language portions.
* Behind The Scenes (8 minutes, 33 seconds) - Behind the scenes footage of some of the action in addition to interviews with Mark Strange and Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa brings up aspects of independent action filmmaking in a fairly interesting manner.
* Cast Biographies - Brief biographies on Vincent Sze, Richard Ng, Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa, Stephanie Langton, Carl Ng, Mark Strange, Nathan Lewis, Shing Fui-On, Vincent Lam Wai, James Ha, Mike Leeder, Digger T. Mesch and Brandon Rhea.
* Crew Biographies - Same format as the above on the following: Chee Keong-Cheung (writer/director/producer), Oliver Morran (writer/producer), Mark Strange (producer), Mike Leeder (producer), Jim Howell (executive producer), Simon Barnes (executive producer), Christ Atkins (executive producer), Ean Tang (co-producer), Henry Chung (director of photography), Steven Priovolus (director of photography), Matt Beecroft (additional director of photography), Anthony Carpio (action choreographer), Chan Man-Ching (assistant action choreographer), Mark Towns (film editor), Stuart Hancock (music) and Vince Watts (sound editor/designer).
*Photo Gallery (20 images including one from the opening of the shooting ceremony in Hong Kong), production notes (more a sales flyer rather than containing in depth production info) and trailers for Bodyguard A New Beginning and Underground are also included.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson