The Bodyguard from Beijing (中南海保鑣) Made in: Hong Kong Language: Cantonese, Mandarin Director: Corey Yuen Starring: Jet Li, Christy Chung, Kent Cheng, Wing Chung Leung, Collin Chou Year: 1994
Synopsis: Also known as The Defender, I heard this was a rip-off of the Kevin Costner movie The Bodyguard. I don't know about you, but if I had loads of bad guys after me and needed protection, I'd probably hire Jet Li instead of the guy who drank his own piss in Waterworld.
In this film, Jet Li plays Allan, an expert bodyguard from Beijing who's known for using unorthodox methods. Sent to Hong Kong, he's assigned to protect Michelle (Christy Chung), the beautiful, spoiled girlfriend of a wealthy businessman (Wai Kwok Ng). Michelle is the only surviving witness of a mob hit, and of great interest to the authorities (not to mention the people who want to kill her).
Once he gets to Hong Kong, Allan meets Charlie (Kent Cheng), aka "Fat Po," who resembles a live action version of Peter Griffin from Family Guy, only he's Chinese. Charlie, along with Ken (Wing-Chung Leung), are both Hong Kong cops who've also been assigned to help protect Michelle.
Michelle is screechingly resentful of Allan's restrictive measures to ensure her safety, while the stoic and emotionless Allan goes about his business with ruthless efficiency. In many of these scenes, you'll see a scathing portrayal of Hong Kong's decadence and superficiality against the traditional and disciplined ways of mainland China. At least that's what the writers want you to think.
Anyway, during a failed attempt on Michelle's life, Allan kills an assassin who happens to be the brother of Sing Ngai (Collin Chou) an expert killer hired by the same gangster who wants Michelle dead. Driven by revenge more than profit, Sing Ngai and Allan converge for a climactic, one-on-one showdown in Michelle's newly-mopped kitchen!
The Good: As far as martial arts movies go, The Bodyguard from Beijing is pretty well-known and very entertaining. Jet Li does a good job playing a straight-laced protector and contrasts well against the comedic expertise of Kent Cheng's character, Fat Po. And director Corey Yuen, known for his long time partnering with Jet Li, films some pretty clever and high-energy (and often implausible) action sequences.
Not to be taken too seriously, the ridiculous stunts, wire-work, and kung fu fighting take priority over the plot (and acting) and the filmmakers know it. And depending on which subtitled version you see, some of the grammatical mistakes and misspellings that appear on the bottom of your screen can add extra entertainment value.
The Bad: The music score is pretty cheesy, and Christy Chung's constant complaining will get on your nerves after a while. For the super-anal, there are a number of inconsistencies and continuity errors during some of the action sequences.
If you're new to martial arts movies, you'll find that fat people get made fun of a lot, which will offend you if you are sensitive to fat jokes.
Kent Cheng's Fat Po character is no exception, and he co-stars with Jet Li on several other occasions where he pretty much plays the same character: the bumbling, friendly big guy who eventually does something heroic after falling down and getting called "fat" a bunch of times.
Who would like this movie: This movie's for you if you like action flicks, and kung fu movies in particular. For many, martial arts films have been an effective "gateway" when it comes to appreciating international movies in general.
Entertaining and often ridiculous, The Bodyguard from Beijing is not the best Jet Li movie, but it's worth checking out.