Martial-artist and filmmaker Sammo Hung, responsible for some of the greatest films in the genre’s history (Eastern Condors, Pedicab Driver, Encounters of the Spooky Kind, and numerous others) returns to the director’s spot for the first time since 1997 with this sweetly melancholy actioner. Old Ding (Hung), a retired soldier/bodyguard, is slowly going senile, mired in regret and shunned by his family over the disappearance many years ago of his granddaughter. Of course he finds redemption when he gets wrapped up in a gang war on the Chinese/Russian border, particularly after becoming attached to a little girl whose father (Andy Lau) is trapped working for the triads. My Beloved Bodyguard works best as a bittersweet semi-fable about memory, aging, and regret, but the sparse action sequences (for some, probably the entire reason to see this) aren’t quite what they could be, full of extraneous cuts and shot mostly in close up, often to mask Hung’s somewhat depleted agility as a performer. Certainly it’s unreasonable to expect the man, now in his mid-60s, to be the same lightning-quick athlete he was in his prime, but it’s still something of a drag to watch one of the fastest guys alive get slower, even if the change blends nicely with this film’s themes.
Published as part of New York Asian Film Festival 2016.