Kung Fu Panda Hung deserves better

The Bodyguard stars Sammo Hung (far left) as a former bodyguard trying to protect the young daughter of Andy Lau’s gambler character.
The Bodyguard stars Sammo Hung (far left) as a former bodyguard trying to protect the young daughter of Andy Lau’s gambler character.PHOTO: CLOVER FILMS DISTRIBUTIONS

REVIEW / ACTION THRILLER

THE BODYGUARD (NC16)

99 minutes/Opens tomorrow/2/5 stars

The story: Ding (Sammo Hung), an ex-bodyguard with the Central Security Bureau haunted by the disappearance of his granddaughter, lives alone and faces the onset of dementia. He strikes up a friendship with the little girl next door Chunhua (Jacqueline Chan). When her gambler father (Andy Lau) gets into trouble, Ding is desperate to ensure her safety.

One line in the movie made me laugh out loud.

"Boss, he's like a Kung Fu Panda," exclaims a hapless henchman to baddie boss Choi (Jack Feng) after being outwitted in a fight by the portly yet surprisingly limber Ding.

Director-star Sammo Hung was so pleased with it that he repeats the quip a second time in another scene.

The repeating of the joke is unfortunately an indicator of what happens with this movie - Hung does not know when to say no. The result is a film which is an unwieldy hotchpotch of different genres.

There is the crime thriller aspect in which the moviegoer is supposed to believe that a miscast Andy Lau is a loser gambler father.

Forced to pick up a bag for Choi, he makes off with it instead and puts his daughter in danger.

Brewing in the background is a turf war between Russian and Chinese-Korean gang elements that eventually blows up.

Tacked onto this is a family drama where a guilt-ridden Ding connects with a girl who reminds him of his granddaughter, not to mention a comedy when Ding's over-eager landlady (Li Qinqin) makes the moves on him.

As an actor, Hung has an affable and stoic presence and he deserves a better movie and not just one in which he wins the fights.

In the finale, Ding single-handedly takes on Choi's gang. For good measure, he fights with the Russian thugs who turn up as well.

There is a lone nod to realism as the ageing Ding has to catch his breath between opponents, but otherwise, the drawn-out action sequence is firmly in the realm of fantasy.

For some reason, all the gangsters, regardless of nationality, appear to have pledged not to use guns. Perhaps they wanted to give the unarmed Ding a fighting chance.

Big mistake. Don't they know he's a Kung Fu Panda?

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2016, with the headline 'Kung Fu Panda Hung deserves better'. Print Edition | Subscribe