It feels like every few years someone comes along trying to be the next Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, or even Donnie Yen. And try as they might, they usually cough up a few watchable titles before fading back into obscurity. While Stephen Chow is undoubtedly the best of the bunch, we’ve also tread through the likes of Tony Jaa. And now here comes the triple threat of Yue Song (writer/director/star) taking aim at modern audiences with Iron Protector (aka The Bodyguard in most markets), but Song has a long way to go. Even while trying something at least sorta new with a superhero/kung fu mixture, it never knows what tone it wants to settle on, leaving your interest behind in the dust.
Wu-Lin (Song) has just been duped by a mugging of a man who is actually part of a cult of protectors, err, bodyguards. Working for Mr. Li is Jiang Li (Xing Yu, aka Shi Yanneng) who also happens to be Wu-Lin’s brother. Wu-Lin is the successor of the ancient “Iron Feet” clan so he is assigned to protect Fei-Fei (Li Yufei), daughter to the richest family in the city. Now, Wu-Lin and Jiang Li are pitted against each other when Fei-Fei is finally abducted and they must face their sibling rivalry head on.
Well Go USA offers up its typical fantastic video/audio presentations on yet another 25GB disc. It’s a good thing the film comes with scant extras and a simple — if not occasionally engaging — audio mix. Colors are bright with contrast running high, yet there’s no bleeding or blooming. Blacks are spot on with no crush. Aliasing is absent even if the dreaded banding rears its ugly in a few instances. Detail is as razor sharp as expected from a WGU release. The 5.1 Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio leaves a lot to be desired throughout the first half of the film. Thankfully, as the action scenes ramp up the surrounds finally kick in. The first half is a rather front heavy affair. But at least it finally delivers when it needs to. A 2.0 Mandarin Stereo track is also available with English subtitles.
As for those scant special features, the film’s trailer (1:04) is included, along with three behind-the-scenes featurettes. “The Chase” (1:43) is a fun look at an elongated foot chase involving a van. This one was more interesting as they quickly talk about how they had no stunt drive and simply found someone daring enough to drive for them to pull it off. “The Final Battle” (3:11) is an interesting look at how the finale came together through practical effects, CGI, and lots of wire-work. There were plenty of accidents and injuries on set, something also shown off during “Training, Stunts, and Fighting Highlights” (3:26). This feature would have been better if we hadn’t already seen it play out during the end credits. However, it is a nice throwback to the Jackie Chan era when his films used to show on-set incidents for anyone daring enough to question his prowess.
Iron Protector comes from a long line of bodyguard sub-genre films and never really tries to push things more than what’s come before. But it does have a sense of humor running through it that helps keep the action moving along. It does start to feel rather long and I honestly thought it was almost over when the finale commences, but when I checked the run-time, there was still a whopping 30 minutes left. Song at least delivers where it counts and there’s a few action scenes that are pretty impressive for being such a new director. With time, Song may not be able to fill the shoes of those who came before, but at least we can see he’s having a good time trying to at least stand alongside the greats, even when falling short. Featuring great A/V while being lax on extras, Iron Protector may not be a new classic, but at least you won’t be mad at yourself for wasting 90 minutes on it either. At least a rental could be recommended, but with how fast WGU discs wind up on Netflix, you could always just wait and give it a whirl once that time comes.