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大刀王五 (1973)
Iron Bodyguard

Reviewed by: steveonkeys
Date: 11/21/2004
Summary: 7 out of 10

Chang Cheh's "The Iron Bodyguard" is a historical drama set in China in the 1890's. When well regarded bodyguard Wang Wu (Chen Kuan Tai,) is aided in defeating Iron Fist Yen, by a reformist scholar, Tan Si Tong(Yueh Hua,) the two become close friends. Driven by friendship and patriotism, Wang Wu begins saving reformist court officials when the Empress Dowager Tsu-Hzi orders their execution without trial. Si Tong is eventually captured by the imperial army, and Wang Wu plans to rescue him on the way to the execution ground, confiding in one of the imperial officials to help him with the ambush. Wang Wu is ultimately double crossed by the official, and shot many times while escaping the melee on horseback. With his escort company wiped out by the imperial army, he must rely on the help of the beautiful Lily Li and a band of thieves to hide, heal his wounds, and prepare for the final showdown with the men who betrayed him. Chen is marvelous in his role, and uses his excellent martial arts skills to bring Tang Chia and Lau Kar Leung's choreography to a level previously unreached in Shaw Brothers films. Where "Iron Bodyguard" comes up short is that in a drama about loyalty, the inter-character relationships feel under developed, and as an action movie, the fights are too few and far between. It never reaches the high drama and sweeping grandeur of an early Shaw Brothers swordplay movie, and can't really compare on the excitement tip with Chang Cheh's movies to come. However, "Iron Bodyguard" is an interesting transitional piece, and promises plenty of fun for the die-hard Shaw Brothers fan. -S.M.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 10/15/2004
Summary: Average at best!!

Nothing new here, i recently saw "the last tempest" and felt like it was linked to that movie, which also had Yueh hua in it, playing probably the same character.

This movie has a lot of nobility in it, characters filled with honour and loyality, but which also makes them look and feel like inanimate objects. Apart from this, the characters have no other emotions or essence to their characters.

The action is average, looks a little sped up, and a predictable ending


Reviewed by: danton
Date: 07/03/2003

I wouldn't rate this retelling of the "Big Blade Wang Wu" story as high as Mr Booth.

The story is centered around the fate of the Reformists led by Tan Si Tong (Yueh Hua), a group of scholars trying to modernize China during the twilight years of the Ching dynasty who ultimately fell victim to the Empress Dowager Cixi. That's an exciting historic backdrop that could have lent some weight to the film and could have provided some interesting narrative elements. However, Iron Bodyguard barely touches on the political dimension of these historical figures and opts instead to reduce the story to a tired fable of male bonding and revenge that seems to be the basis for every single Chang Cheh film I've ever seen.

Sometimes (as in Blood Brothers), this formula works well enough, but here it doesn't amount to much more than a number of cinematic cliches strung together to feature length.

The stars (Yueh Hua and Chen Kuan-Tai) struggle to raise their characters from being mere caricatures, but in the end there's just not enough substance in the script. And the two female leads (Betty Pei Ti and Lily Li) fare even worse, being relegated to standing around and looking pretty (but then again, this is a film in the vein of Chang Cheh, even if he didn't direct it himself).

So the only reason left to watch the film are the fight scenes, and while there's certainly plenty of those, none of them struck me as being anything more than average.

For a much better take on the "Big Blade" character, watch Sammo Hung's Blade of Fury instead - that movie features the same characters and essentially the same plot, but manages to do so in a much more convincing manner.

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 05/11/2003
Summary: A generally worthy film

An Iron Bodyguard (head of a security firm) called Wang Wu (Chen Kuan Tai) meets a scholar (Yueh Hua) and forms a strong friendship with him after they fight some villains together. The scholar is a member of the reformists - a group of scholars pressing for social reform in China towards the end of the Qing dynasty. The Emperor is actually all for reforms, and appoints this group to run the country. This doesn't suit the Empress Dowager though, as she has no intention of losing her power. She orders the reformists to be arrested, and Chen Kuan Tai hence gets drawn into politics despite having no real political views himself. It's all about friendship.

Iron Bodyguard stars several of my favourite Shaw Brothers stars - Yueh Hua, Chen Kuan Tai and (briefly) Betty Tei Pei. It's got a solid script, featuring a gentle sprinkle of politics and philosophy with the classic themes of loyalty, honour and heroism. Chang Che shares director credit with Pau Hsueh-Li, but discussion over at MHVF suggests Chang Che may just have lent his name to the film to promote it, and have done little or no actual direction. This makes sense as it doesn't feel like a Chang Che film very much... it's better directed than most of his films for one thing ;)

Technically the production is good - the typically beautiful Shaws costumes and sets create a nice mood, though the architecture seems no different at the end of the Qing dynasty than at any other point a Shaws film has been set ) Cinematography is pretty good, but there's an overuse of dramatic zooms. Seems like the camera is always zooming in or out on something.

The fight scenes in the film were choreographed by Chang Che's regular duo of Tong Gaai and Lau Kar Leung, and they're pretty good. There's some fist action and some sword action, with Chen Kuan Tai sporting a huge sword that looks very impressive. The choreography's not Sammo Hung standard, but it's alright.

Solid script, good directing, good acting, decent action scenes... a generally worthy film.


Reviewer Score: 7