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Film / The Bodyguard From Beijing

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Not pictured: At least 40 assassins outside of the frame...
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The Bodyguard From Beijing, also known as The Defender, is a 1994 Hong Kong action film produced by and starring Jet Li, directed by Corey Yuen.

Jet Li stars as John, the titular bodyguard, one of the best from the Beijing military academy (as the title states) whose latest assignment is to guard the life of Michelle Leung (Christy Chung), the girlfriend of a wealthy Hong Kong businessman whom had witnessed a murder. After three prior witnesses have been killed, the Hong Kong police is entirely unavailable to send bodyguards reliable enough to protect Michelle, save for two bumbling rookies Charlie and Ken, and John is the best man for the job. Unfortunately, the syndicate who wants Michelle's life has sent Wong, a fellow ex-hitman who was trained in the same academy as John, and is close to as skillful as John is.

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This is the first 90s movie starring Jet Li that is NOT a Wuxia or period-piece film. Its closer to a Heroic Bloodshed film compared to what Jet Li was known for at that time, what with the hero taking on legions of mooks, over-the-top gunplay, and an insanely high onscreen bodycount.


This film provides examples of:

  • Badass in a Nice Suit: John Keung wears a really smart coat, complete with tie, during more than one shootout sequence.
  • Badass Longcoat: Wong, the Arch-Enemy of John, who is almost never seen without his cool black trenchcoat.
  • Big Damn Heroes: John Keung, throughout the movie. Whenever things get really bad and the Mauve Shirt bodyguards are losing, John arrives and single-handedly takes down enemies by the dozens.
  • Big Fun: Charlie, a huge, chubby and friendly fellow bodyguard who’s also a Boisterous Bruiser and gets along well with his partner Ken and Michelle’s kid brother.
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  • Bodyguard Crush: Michelle develops one for John, despite her being a rich businessman's girlfriend, after he saved her life from a legion of assassins.
  • Creator Cameo: Director Corey Yuen had a cameo as a shopper in the mall shootout.
  • Damsel in Distress: Michelle, throughout the film. But especially in the ending shootout when Wong manage to hold her at gunpoint.
  • Darkened Building Shootout: As a legion of assassins enters a lounge area, John shuts off the lights, and throws torchlights into the lounge before shooting assassins momentarily revealed by the light. He takes it even further by waiting for a group of assassins to walk pass a television, then press on the remote control and shoot down every assassin he can see.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: In the end of the movie, John’s passion is for duty and country. Sorry, Michelle.
  • Disguised in Drag: In the mall scene, a hitman tries sneaking up on Michelle while disguised as a heavily pregnant woman. Unfortunately for him, John sees through his disguises and kills him on the spot.
  • Fat and Skinny: Between Those Two Guys, Charlie is the chubby one, Ken is the skinny one.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The final battle between John and Wong. At first Wong gains the upper hand by stabbing his baton into John’s side, but later John manage to rip out Wong’s baton and fling it into Wong’s throat, finally killing him.
  • I Have a Family: Charlie’s reasons for accepting the dangerous job as Michelle’s bodyguard, despite knowing how every hitman in Hong Kong is after her, is for the salary to fund his son’s education.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: John, who is a devil with using both pistols and throwing knives. At one point Charlie accidentally knocks a dartboard off a wall, and John, from across the room, hurls the dart he was holding into the hook that was initially holding the board to the wall, pinning it in place.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Wong, whose preferred close-range weapon is a sharpened baton with a triangle-shaped tip which he uses to stab several people.
  • Interesting Situation Duel: The climactic finale eventually leads to the kitchen, with a gas canister having sprung a leak, where John and Wong is unable to shoot each other (or else risk blowing up the whole area and killing themselves) and are forced to fight each other one-on-one. And wash their faces in a nearby sink during every ten seconds of the fight as they inhale noxious quantities of gas. Rinse and repeat.
  • Invincible Hero: Jet Li’s John Keung practically guns down enemy mooks like sitting ducks, and defeats literally everybody except Wong without breaking a sweat.
  • It's Personal: Turns out the last assassin killed by John in the mall shootout is none other than Wong's brother, which makes John the top assassin's main priority to eliminate.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: At one point, Charlie managed to hold an enemy hitman at gunpoint, before Michelle’s kid brother suddenly shows up and said Charlie mixed up his gun with the kid’s water pistol. A shocked Charlie pulls the trigger, and ends up wetting his opponent’s face.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: John isn't always polite about it, but the fact remains that the easiest way for a bodyguard to protect someone is for their principal to spend as much time as possible in places the security team controls.
  • One-Man Army: John, who emerged unscathed in shootouts against dozens of mooks and leaving behind loads and loads of dead enemies wherever he goes.
  • Patriotic Fervor: John in his intro, complete with Chinese flag waving in the background and patriotic music playing clearly.
  • Properly Paranoid: Yes, John may seem a little over-the-top, what with him pointing guns at everyone he sees, insisting for surveillance cameras to be installed in every corner (including Michelle's bedroom) and following Michelle wherever she goes, but considering the syndicate who wants her dead have a seemingly endless supply of henchmen stationed in every corner, its justified.
  • Rule of Three: The panic button is pressed three times. The first two times its a false alarm, which makes John think the third time is a case of Crying Wolf at first.
  • Security Cling: Michelle clings to John’s shoulder more than once throughout the movie, especially after he saved her from assassins out to get her in the shopping mall. Its even depicted on the above poster.
  • Shopping Montage: Halfway through the second act, Michelle decides to go shopping with her kid brother, with only the bumbling duo of Charlie and Ken, oblivious to her cover being blown to the assassins who had their men already stationed in the mall.
  • Spotting the Thread: In the mall shootout, John is able to spot enemy assassins from civilians, from two pens each assassin had clipped to their front pockets. Remembering seeing a dead assassin with pens clipped to his front, John manage to kill an enemy disguised as a cowering civilian before said enemy can shoot, and later steals two pens from the slain assassin to trick and get the drop on another assassin.
  • Stop, or I Will Shoot!: John greets everyone assigned to protect Michelle in this way, pointing his gun and demanding them to identify themselves constantly. Charlie had to blurt out that they're on the same side while staring down John's gunbarrel.
  • Tagalong Kid: Michelle’s kid brother, who inexplicably follows her everywhere, even between a heated shootout where she is the target and John is busy gunning down mooks left and right.
  • That Poor Cat: Michelle’s cat is the reason she’s alive in the first place. The hitmen sent to assassinate her tries to off her using an Electrified Bathtub trap, but a sudden Cat Scare had the cat ending in her tub instead.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Despite her insanely close shave with death (which happens five minutes into the film), somehow Michelle still insists on going out to do some shopping, against John’s advice, and she even warned him against following her! John tails her anyway, which is a good thing because the syndicate who wants Michelle dead has deployed at least 20 hitmen in the mall.
  • Worthy Opponent: By the end of the movie, John and Wong considers each other as this.


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