The Guardsman (2011) Movie Review

The Guardsman is a Cantonese film about a fierce and loyal guardsman with legendary Kung Fu skills forced to protect the life of a well-meaning emperor masquerading as a commoner for the sake of understanding the lives of his subjects. He is heavily tested from all angles, including past friendships, enemies of the emperor and Japanese pirates.

First thing first… Don’t expect cinematic beauty from this movie. Instead, think of it as a 1970’s, 1980’s martial arts film re-mastered. Ok, now that we’ve addressed the elephant in the room, let’s get started. I am not very familiar with the cast, which includes Pei-Pei Cheng and Wu Ma, but I did enjoy the acting overall. Each of them did well and the storyline was decent.

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The emperor wasn’t the stereotypical tyrant whose acts are brutal and selfish. Actually, he was quite the opposite. It was a refreshing change which gave the movie an interesting direction. While The Guardsman obviously focuses mainly on the guardsman character, it was still a pleasantly balanced story as each of the other characters contributed to the development of the plot.

The most intriguing part I found was that the emperor was also no pushover and could hold his own in a fight. Thankfully, the sniveling ruler whose only mentally tough found no place here. Since I love a good fighter, this one difference was prize enough for me to continue watching. Surprisingly, the fight choreography felt a bit dated in comparison to other movies with similar stories.

I may be being a bit harsh in my assessment of this because the graphics weren’t all that impressive. However, once I got it in my head that my usual levels of gore-expectancy would not be met, I was able to enjoy the movie a bit more. There were some holes in it.

For example, why was it so hard for the Japanese to figure out where the Emperor was staying and attack him there? And what ever happened with those three favors that were owed? I guess I am probably overthinking things, but I am still curious.

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Only one of the three women in the movie added real substance to their roles. The other two fit into the old idea of being eye-candy. Since it matched the feel of the movie I’m not opposed to it. As a whole, I was not overly impressed because I went in with my expectations too high to begin with. Looking back, had I watched this around the time that I watched my Shaw Brother classics playlist on Netflix, it would have fit right in and probably received higher praise from me.

However, having been filmed in 2011, it seems a bit lacking considering all of the technology available. This was another U-Verse On Demand movie that I decided to give a whirl to get my weekly action fix. I don’t know if it was worth the six dollar HD fee, though. I probably should have waited on Netflix for this one. Still, I don’t regret for a second having watched it.

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If you are in an “old school” martial arts mood, this is a decent watch. If you’re hoping to see explosive action and mind-blowing fight scenes, you might want to hold off on this one. Either way, as a martial arts movie enthusiast, it is still a must-watch, so put it on your list of rainy day movies.

CoolHappyMe Rating: 3 Stars

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