feared for their decapitation weapons, the Guillotines consider themselves the
Emperor’s A-team for sensitive mission.
Unfortunately, they find out they are simply expendable crewmen in
Andrew Lau’s The Guillotines (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
is the ironically named leader of the rebellious shepherd gang, who seems to
think his fate is connected to that of Leng, the Guillotines’ trusted squad leader. With Wolf imprisoned and scheduled for
execution, Leng pays little heed to his captive’s mumbo jumbo. Unfortunately, a daring rescue operation
frees Wolf, in the process taking prisoner Musen, their comrade and daughter of
their revered commander.
this is a black eye for the Guillotines, but it gets worse. The emperor has decided to sacrifice the
Guillotines on an ostensive clean-up mission.
As it happens, Leng is well acquainted with the man charged with his
team’s destruction. He and Agent Du were
recruited as young children to faithfully serve the emperor. While Du remains unswervingly committed to
the royal sovereign, Leng feels a stronger kinship with his team. Ironically, he finds temporary shelter with
his old nemesis, Wolf.
the wicked Krull like weapons sported
by the Guillotines, the pseudo-Shaw Brothers remake is surprisingly stingy with
the martial arts throwdowns.
Frustratingly, most of the action consists of large set piece massacres
of Wolf’s ragtag contingent, which are really not much fun at all.
The Guillotines follows in a long
line of historical dramas that not so subtly suggest a strong centralizing
authority is in the national interest because it provides stability. Of course, this is an attractive argument if
you happen to be part of that centralized power structure. Still, the film incorporates the traditional
Han and Manchu conflict in intriguing ways.
Leng and Du, Ethan Juan and Shawn Yue develop a nice Cain-and-Abel tension,
while Li Yuchun convincingly renders Musen’s awakening of conscience. In contrast, the rest of the Guillotines,
though introduced individually in the cool credit sequence, are not meaningfully
delineated as characters.
Frankly, there are just too many scenes of
terrified peasants fleeing the Imperial war machine, followed-up with precious
little payoff. It is a quality period
production, but there is too much message and not enough old school
entertainment. A disappointment for
martial arts fans, The Guillotines opens
this Friday (6/14) in New York at the IFC Center.
Labels: Andrew Lau, Li Yuchun, Martial arts cinema