ReviewWriter: Ng SuzhenWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
“Bodyguards And Assassins” and “Wuxia”
"The Guillotines" opens with an impressive demonstration by an assassin group of the same name with the beauty and deadliness of what their weapons can do to those opposing the Qing Dynasty under the reign of Emperor Qian Long.
The group works with honour without second guessing their missions but little do they know that something bigger is at work that may have them wiped out from the history of their era.
The movie explores the age-old dilemma of sacrificing your life and morality for the sake of a power that you are taught your whole life to be loyal to. But what becomes of you when you are betrayed by the very power that you have dedicated your life to? Things fall apart.
For Leng (Ethan Ruan), the leader of the Guillotines, it's a painful position for him to be in as he is the only one aware of the emotional tsunami his team mates are about to find themselves embroiled in while on a last mission to assassinate the rebel, Wolf (Huang Xiaoming). The conflict Leng faces is a complicated one yet the movie does not take the advantage to fully explore what it does to Leng except that he is troubled by it.
For a leader of an assassin group, one would expect him to be cold-blooded with turmoil being expressed internally, but he surprisingly does quite a fair bit of crying, even more than Mu (Li Yuchun), the only female in the team.
In order to completely annihilate the rebels, the emperor orders Agent Du (Shawn Yue) to follow the Guillotines into the outer frontier, where he is met with contempt by the team for belittling them. It is not hard to see where Du's loyalty lies with the hard choices he makes when facing off with Leng. The extend of what the emperor means to Du is strongly conveyed by his reaction to the boy who cuts off his pigtail, a symbol honouring and total compliance to the Qing Dynasty's ruler.
Wolf on the other hand, is a confusing character to watch onscreen. He is introduced as a messiah of sorts, even portrayed as possessing precognitive powers that makes him out to be more as a cult leader than anything else. It is really hard to take him seriously as an upright character whose only wish is to see the people being free with that fancy sidebar being added to him.
Singer Li Yuchun, who made her debut in Peter Chan's "Bodyguards And Assassins", pleasantly surprises as she turns from ruthless to diminutive, her sharp-edged personality blunted by her realisation of the impact her actions bring as a member of the Guillotines. The singer, best known for her androgynous image and voice, while not exactly a striking beauty, is still good looking by Chinese standards with unexpected gentle features.
The film provides a sad underlying theme where the beautiful weapons (also called the Guillotines) are set to be replaced by the more straightforward and unfeeling Western rifles and cannons. Modern convenience surpasses what has been passed down through generations, a phenomenon that resonates even in present situations where those who hold on to past values are quickly branded by society as slow in the uptake and promptly abandoned.
For "The Guillotines", the anticipation for a tragedy comes early on in the movie. An already moody atmosphere turns uglier as the plot draws out, preparing you for the worse to come. "The Guillotines" may not best Peter Chan's previous efforts like "Bodyguards And Assassins" and "Wuxia", but the cinematic shots alone is worth a go for lovers of period dramas.Cinema Online, 27 December 2012