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BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS (2009)

Teddy Chan’s epic kung fu actioner BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS makes its debut in theaters across Chinese territories in Asia and parts of Oceania this week. (Taiwan will have to wait until December 24.) The film brings Donnie Yen, now the highest paid actor in China, together with an all-star cast in a thrilling story of how a band of kung fu fighters band together to protect revolutionary Dr. Sun Yat-sen from an elaborate assassination attempt in the heart of Hong Kong at the turn of the 20th century.

BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS (2009)

Yen and producers Peter Chan and Yu Dong were recently in Shanghai to promote the release by showcasing what is set to be one of the film’s highlights, a 10-minute action showstopper between Donnie Yen and Cung Le that begins with free-running and ends with an intense round of MMA-style fighting. (Scroll down for behind-the-scenes video previews of this sequence.)

The sequence ended up being a re-shoot where Yen, who worked without additional pay, took charge of the choreography and called back Cung Le after both actors agreed that the original sequence wasn’t good enough. For a week, the two feverishly worked with a team of 17 stuntmen to accomplish what originally took much longer to set up. Yen worked over 24 hours straight on the last day of the shoot in order to finish the sequence before Cung Le had to return to the U.S.

According to the always opinionated action star, the idea was to take advantage of the film’s unusually grand outdoor set to incorporate parkour into the sequence.

“When shooting this scene, I was thinking parkour is a very popular sport, and while it was shown in a James Bond film, it wasn’t done particularly well,” said Yen. “I told Peter Chan, ‘We’ve built such a gargantuan set [and] spent so much money. Why not shoot a graceful parkour fight scene?”

Speaking of Cung Le, Yen gave high praise for the MMA superstar’s screen fighting performance.

“It [was] like fighting a bull. Cung Le is the strongest opponent I have ever encountered in shooting action scenes, and because of his excellent martial arts skills and weight, I [had] to be extra careful.”

Shooting of this sequence was even harder on Yen because a day before it began, his grandmother had passed away where she live in Boston near Yen’s mother, wushu Master Bow Sim Mark. Because of his commitment to the shoot he was unable to attend her funeral. Yen admits he lost sleep as a result and became short-tempered.

On top of this, the free-running sequence aggravated an old waist injury Yen had previously suffered.

At 46, Donnie Yen may be the highest paid Chinese actor but I’d say he is earning every bit of it. I’d like to see Harrison Ford or Will Smith (at any age) try to pull off the physical performance Yen is going to deliver in BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS.

BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS Preview – Cung Le

BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS Preview – Donnie Yen vs. Cung Le

Additional “making of” videos focused on this sequence can be found at Sina (Video 1, Video 2, Video 3).

Source: Yangtse Evening News, Sina via Wujing.org, Joy.cn

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  • douglas

    i love donnie…but he is talking shit about the parkour scene…especially since the guy doing the parkour was one of the founders……and m curious to see if he will top it but its doubtful.

  • http://www.kungfucinema.com Mark Pollard

    Donnie's lack of humility is well known but one thing I'll give him is that he does know who to translate real-world action to the screen extremely well. He managed well with MMA in FLASH POINT. We'll soon see how well he does when it comes to his first foray into free-running.

  • douglas

    after watching the video which is wire heavy…i'm even more doubtful…i mean if your going to say oh i can do it better thats fine…but then you gotta do it. i usually call donnie the ali of hk movies because he talks shit but he backs it up….he failed…

  • DiP

    I don't know about you guys but I don't think there has been any successful attempts of showcasing parkour onscreen yet (apart from Flash Point) without looking so obvious; meaning that you choreograph the free-running and make it look like it's really PART of a certain event of the scene and not like a demo. I feel people just use the film medium to show these physical movements in cool fashion and they either don't know, forget, or don't mind figuring out how to translate them well with the choreography and the story. I believe that's Don meant (though he could've elaborated more as it's misleading) with the comment on the parkour in Casino Royale (and I agree).

    I've seen the whole preview clip and, despite the minimal use of wirework (just assisting few kicks, falls, jumps, hit impacts), it's very good. The parkour was good too but there's a shot towards the end of the act where Don does some acrobatic maneuvers and it wasn't needed (it calls for attention).

  • DiP

    Haha, it's not heavy on wire at all. The only shown wirework in the clip was Cung's huge jump off the cart. It's not even the whole preview clip.

  • Rhythm-X

    Donnie Yen now pulls down bigger checks than Jackie Chan, Stephen Chow, or Jet Li?

  • reefer

    The footage here is ok. I'll probably check it out.

    But I have to say that, to me, the opening parkour sequence from Casino Royale has to be one of the top action scenes in the last 10 years. The footage shown above doesn't look like half the adrenaline rush of CR.

  • Kent108

    I suspect that just as being a great martial artist doesn't necessarily mean you can make it look good on screen, the same goes for parkour. The guy might have been a beast in real life, but even I thought the Casino Royale scene could have been done better.

    Banlieu 13 (District 13), on the other hand, was a parkour masterpiece.

  • Kent108

    I disagree. It wasn't even the top parkour scene in cinema: that honor goes to District 13. Check it out.

  • sowutifmahsnsux

    i'm really glad to hear they put such an effort into re-shooting the fight scene. too many times have there been clashes between martial arts icons that didn't live up to the hype.

  • DiP

    I heard there was a dispute between Don and Tung Wai (the AD) over the look of the action, so Peter Chan settled things and let Don take over to re-shoot the fight. Another story goes that Peter Chan wasn't satisfied with Tung Wai's work on the fight so he choose Don to re-do it.

  • reefer

    Kent, I can see how you would misunderstand. I said that Casino Royale had one of the top action scenes in the last 10 years. It only featured parkour. I've seen District 13. It was ok. Certainly better than a lot of action films mostly because of the talent involved (big Luc Besson fan), but nothing in it holds a candle to CR in terms of story, pace, and intensity. District 13 seems more like a demo reel, at times, trying to be a film.

  • http://www.facebook.com/musicvibes Kevin Celebi

    Cung Le is a vicious mofo though. He is not as talented as Donnie Yen but I can see why he proves to be Donnie's toughest opponent when shooting a scene so far. I'm looking forward to how good he will be in TRUE LEGEND.

  • http://www.wopular.com/ wopular

    Yeah, that statement's kinda misleading. Jet Li got paid US $13M for Warlords – that's still the record for a chinese movie. $13M US is probably more than the entire budget for Bodyguards and Assassins.

    Maybe excluding Jet, Jackie, Chow Yun-Fat, and Stephen Chow.

  • http://www.kungfucinema.com Mark Pollard

    I don't have a breakdown of numbers and was quoting Chinese media via translation by Wu-Jing.org but I imagine it is true if you add up his salaries for all the films he is currently involved in. In 2009/2010 he will end up starring in a lot more movies than Chan, Li or Chow.

  • Name

    What's with the close shaky cam and quick editing :(
    I yearn for the oldschool filmmaking, nice long takes, where the action is shown!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • OzAsianCinema

    Australians don't have to wait!!

    AUSTRALIA same day & date release:

    HOYTS ASIAN CINEMA (http://www.hoyts.com.au)
    NSW Broadway & Chatswood Mandarin
    VIC Melbourne Central & Chadstone
    WA Carousel
    AMC CINEMA (http://www.a-m-c.com.au)
    QLD Sunnybank 8

  • DevilmanEX

    wow and I thought I was psyched for this movie before! I just saw the trailer for District B13 Ultimatum and it really got me in the mood for some parkour. This is going to be another Donnie hit. I'm also pleasantly surprised the ever so hard to please Donnie Yen praised Cung Le's on screen ability. This has really raised excitement for their fight now! I'm checking HKflix.com everyday for this import now!

  • tony

    MMA in an old setting Eastern Asian movie?

  • DiP

    Contemporary styles in period movies have been done many times before.

  • http://www.kungfucinema.com Mark Pollard

    DiP is right. Look at Jet Li's entire career. He brought contemporary wushu to period kung fu movies. he even had Wong Fei-hung doing it in the OUATIC series instead of traditional Hung Fist. It's part of Hong Kong's effort to keep kung fu movie action relevant and marketable to modern audiences.

  • Damnye2000

    Very nice indeed. But why would you compare Yen's abilities to the lack of such talent regarding Harrison Ford or Will Smith (neither of whom are martial artists). Yen is a Wu Shu trained performer/martial artist. No comparison.

    An excellent review otherwise, and thank you for the info.

  • Danmye

    Agreed. While I like this review, and am glad HK Kung Fu filmmaking continues, I don't like the idea of getting away from traditional Chinese martial arts, like that of the Lau family, because so much culture and character came out of the films which featured this aspect of Chinese culture.

    Hong Kong filmmakers have forgotten that Kung Fu movie fans loved these films because they featured this dynamic part of that culture, uninterested in attempting to appeal to foreign audiences (and, thus, watering down the content).

    I blame Jackie Chan for this. In time, we may regretably come to realize that Lau senoir's stance was the more correct of the two (Lau's vs Chan's): show Chinese MAs as they are, without making them internationally generic or gimicky.

  • http://www.kungfucinema.com Mark Pollard

    The comparison was made because Ford and Smith have been listed as top earners among Hollywood actors.

    This isn't a review by the way, just a preview.

  • gary1108

    This is one of my most anticipated movie this year, but i left the theater very very disappointed. As a historical movie it's a decent one but as a Donnie Yen's martial art movie this totally suck!!
    After the grueling 1 hour of history we are presented with western fighting style and B-movie action editing. What's up with parkour and MMA in 1906 Hongkong?! You dressed up as Chinese in a Chinese historical event yet fight like a western in modern age?? I can appreciate in SPL but here??!!
    (Spoiler alert!) To top it of Donnie Yen is back to his old pattern where he died in every one of his movies.. and on this one guess what?? he didn't even die by fighting.. he died hit by a horse!! WTH??!!
    Do not expect good fighting scene here.. Donnie Yen is just a small role, the marketing used his name to gain audience. In my country (Indonesia) they even advertise with “60 minutes of Fighting Scene” which is totally a lie.
    Totally disappointing!

  • gary1108

    This is one of my most anticipated movie this year, but i left the theater very very disappointed. As a historical movie it's a decent one but as a Donnie Yen's martial art movie this totally suck!!
    After the grueling 1 hour of history we are presented with western fighting style and B-movie action editing. What's up with parkour and MMA in 1906 Hongkong?! You dressed up as Chinese in a Chinese historical event yet fight like a western in modern age?? I can appreciate in SPL but here??!!
    (Spoiler alert!) To top it of Donnie Yen is back to his old pattern where he died in every one of his movies.. and on this one guess what?? he didn't even die by fighting.. he died hit by a horse!! WTH??!!
    Do not expect good fighting scene here.. Donnie Yen is just a small role, the marketing used his name to gain audience. In my country (Indonesia) they even advertise with “60 minutes of Fighting Scene” which is totally a lie.
    Totally disappointing!

  • DiP

    Sounds like you watched the cut version, which isn't surprising at all.

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  • nathan arneaud

    looks like the martial arts movie scene is back in a big way with donnie yen at the top, and its about time the talent in all the fields has always been there

  • chuck222

    the movie is okay. i mean its typical, its an exaggerated piece of history molded to fit a part about chinese nationalism that is actioned packed. like yip man. oh god what an awful movie.
    it's always just fluff where the most complex things aren't the camera work or the story but the choreography.
    as for the parkour it's okay nothing special, its not shot well, and its not even parkour (he does a front flip!!) he cant best sebastian foucan or casino royale and I say that not as a big fan of either but as a traceur.
    it just looks like an attempt to use parkour moves in a movie, more than a guy moving in his enviroment in an efficient way which is relaly all parkour is!!
    watch youtube vids they're better

  • DiP

    “the movie is okay. i mean its typical, its an exaggerated piece of history molded to fit a part about chinese nationalism that is actioned packed. like yip man.”

    Biopics aren't supposed to be all realistic.

    “it's always just fluff where the most complex things aren't the camera work or the story but the choreography.”

    The fact that the movie starts of with exposing the characters and moving along the story before the big moment comes says alot. I think you mistook the movie for an action movie (it was marketed as one but technically isn't) or you just had the wrong expectation. Things are twisted here unlike so many other Chinese epics. It's everything, not just the action.

  • tony

    Yip Man was awful? It was a good movie even though I wished he didn't use wires. He's coming out with the second part this summer. There's no Parkour in the movie, it's just running and jumping. They've been doing it for years in every movie.