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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Bodyguard From Beijing (1994)

(aka: The Defender)



Reviews and Comments

"All the kung fu in the world isn't going to help when it comes to women."

Jet Li is normally known for making high-octane action movies. The Bodyguard From Beijing, despite having some stupendous action scenes, is a bit of a change of pace. It has two amazing and elaborate action sequences, one in the middle and one at the end, but most of the film is much quieter. Many action movies are too hurried to establish more than a cursory character dynamic; this one takes its time to build a surprisingly touching romance and some affecting supporting characters. Li, not normally strong in romantic subplots, is fine here. Director Corey Yuen ably captures the novel intensity of budding romance, providing an atmosphere that evokes from stone-faced Li the compelling suggestion of a conflicted man.

It's not a great movie, and it has its share of rough edges. The way certain scenes play out defy logic, but this arguably makes the ultimate accomplishment of the film all the greater: even when there are nagging logistical questions, the movie sells itself to us. We accept its fallacies and move on, preferring to embrace its power instead of nitpicking at it. The climactic fight scene, for example, is marred in spots with the "Why doesn't the badguy just shoot?" syndrome, but the sequence is so riveting, creative, and energetic that to dwell on trifles is meaningless.

The character scenes have their flaws, too. There are times when I doubted Li's character's wisdom in his profession, and I was not convinced of the decision he makes at the end of the film. But again, to dwell too much on these points is to do an injustice to the scenes that work. When all is said and done, the film has explored something real about the human heart, and that's something that a more even film may still fail to do.

Though what action there is is spectacular, those hoping for non-stop action will probably be disappointed. But those who can appreciate a character drama nestled amidst fists and gunfire might want to check this one out.