22 August 2013 | bob the moo
Solid plot and a good darkness but the action is too infrequent and too unmemorable
When legendary swordsman Wang Wu challenges the authority on a blanket arrest of men when really only one is guilty, his intervention (and its success) is observed by politician Tan Tzutung who tries to buy him a drink but is rebuffed. Later, Wang is attacked while getting his hair braided and Tan assists him, making them friends and allowing them to talk. Tan is a reformer but there are moves against such men and Wang knows it. He enlists Wang's help but within the world of politics nothing is to be trusted and soon the friends are in great danger in the name of their reforming efforts.
I think the title translates as "Big Blade Wang Wu" but for some reason it was entitled Iron Bodyguard when I watched it. Either title suggests action and a tough edge and it is a real shame that it never really delivers this. The plot offers a good base but ultimately is the problem. We have a story here of political intrigue and conspiracy against the pure-of-heart heroes and I liked the idea that this engaging and rather slippery plot would engage me and thus make the action better. Sadly what it does is slow the film down. There is too much narrative almost, too many scenes of discussion and dialogue and not enough of action.
The action starts well enough with a fun confrontation while Wang gets his hair did but from there it has surprisingly few action scenes. Those that it does have are not as thrilling or fun as I wanted them to be; I enjoyed their mostly dark tone but they really didn't deliver as much nor as frequently as they should have done. The cast are mostly OK and actually cope reasonably well with the low-action. Kuan Tai Chen is a decent lead; he has heroic looks, a strong chin, expressive face and a warm presence in the film. Hua Yueh works pretty well alongside him, although he was a little hammy and made me doubt his sincerity as a character. Ti Lu's Iron Fist is a bit disappointing – his presence is hinted at the very start of the film but he does nothing till the end and even then their fight is a little straightforward.
Iron Bodyguard has a decent plot and dark elements but it spends too much time talking and too little time fighting. When the action does come it isn't as thrilling or as engaging as it should – it supports the narrative well but it is surprising that this is the element that seems to deliver the least.