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Written by Black Eyed Susan

"His (Steven Ma) whole attitude just oozes confidence, intelligence and determination. His deep voice conveys enough authority to keep one listening to him. Emotional scenes were portrayed with such power that he literally overshadows every other character in the same scene."


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Chinese Title (Cantonese)
Tit Huet Bow Biu meaning Bodyguards of Iron and Blood

Released in
2006

Cast
Steven Ma – Sheung Chi
Elaine Yiu – Lei Cheung Fung
Wayne Lai – Sheung Chung/Mo
Ben Wong – Sheung Hau
Kwok Fung – Sheung Ching Tong
Ram Tseung – Sheung Ching Man
Lau Kong – Sheung Ching Pang
Lai Lok Yi – Sheung Yi
Kara Hui – Yan Ching
Suet Nei – Sau Ping
Evergreen Mak – Fo Yim Hung

Summary
In the Qing era, Sheung Ching Tong has build out his father’s legacy to one of the biggest and most known transport companies in those times called ‘Wui Yau Guards Bureau’. After a fortune teller told him that their family wealth will not surpass three generations, Ching Tong’s doubts increased about his successor. Normally, Sheung Chung would become the next chief as he is the eldest son, but he isn’t a leader type. Chung is too easily manipulated with some nice words, he will never think things through and is very irresponsible. His biggest contender is Sheung Hau, who is the son of Ching Tong and his concubine. Although Hau has the leader capacities, he is quite ruthless as he will do anything to reach his goal, even committing a crime. The third son, Sheung Chi, was never in the running for this position as he was only adopted. However, deep in his heart Ching Tong knew that Chi has the best ability to lead the family company. Lastly, there is Sheung Yi, bus as he has studied abroad for several years, he is completely unfamiliar with the business. As the entire family is divided by this power struggle, it has also affected business and profits are going downhill. Can the brothers still turn the tide and work as a team to save the business?

Performances
Steven Ma
Truthfully, I have never paid much attention to him in the past. Even if he was the male lead, I have always find other characters more interesting. However, from the very first moment I saw him in “Safe Guards”, I was captured. His whole attitude just oozes confidence, intelligence and determination. His deep voice conveys enough authority to keep one listening to him. Emotional scenes were portrayed with such power that he literally overshadows every other character in the same scene. Chi is someone who will never panic and who will take care of everyone’s problems calmly and thoughtfully. He is the rock in the lives of so many people. And I just fell head over heels with Steven’s portrayal of Sheung Chi. This character has entered my top five of all the characters that I have seen in all my TVB years.

Elaine Yiu
Poor girl has been ‘criticized’ (nicely put lol…) ever since she appeared as Chloe in “Revolving Doors of Vengeance’ by the internet community on her looks, acting skills and so on. I really feel sorry for her and I am not sure whether she deserves such treatment. Having said this, I am afraid I have to agree with everyone else that her performance in “Safe Guards” was the weakest. However, she was tolerable as long as she wasn’t in an emotional scene. Those were, namely, way over the top as emotions were portrayed in a very exaggerated and hysterical way. Facial expressions were terribly lacking and if she was able to convey a feeling, it was almost caricatured. Yet for some strange reason, I wasn’t as annoyed by her as I thought I would. I’m sure she will improve given the time and opportunities, just like many other actresses at TVB.

Wayne Lai
One of my favourite supporting actors, together with Power Chan and Evergreen Mak. Ever since I saw him as Pigsy in ‘Journey to the West”, I have become his fan. Always anticipating his performance when I know he is in a certain series. And he has never disappointed me. Although I will not deny that he is extremely versatile, I have always preferred him in comedies where his comical timing would come to its right. This has changed after I have seen Sheung Chung. Wayne has portrayed this character in such a humane and realistic way that you can actually relate to. With his full range of emotions at his display, he just showed them all with the right subtlety; be it confidence, fear, shrewdness or maturity.

Ram Tseung
I liked his character a lot as he provided some entertaining comic relief together with Kara Hui. His performance was very consistent throughout the whole series, but it really peaked when his wife died. The way he conveyed his sadness even made me feel heartbroken.

Others
The other performances in “Safe Guards” were more than satisfactory. Kwok Fung gave a memorable portrayal of Sheung Ching Tong, very in-depth. Another honourable mention is for Evergreen Mak. At first I was very surprised to see Evergreen act a character who knows martial arts. However, he pulled it off and I was sad to see his character go. Last remark, it seems that the performances of the female cast were overall weaker than the male.

My favourite scenes
When Chi discovered that he actually liked Cheung Fung, he took her daily to the opera. Although very exciting the first time, possibly even the second and third time, but after so many times you could see that they were both bored out of their mind. Yet neither wanted to admit this to the other, because they thought that the other was enjoying it and it was also the only time that they could spend time together on their own. Once, Chi wore sunglasses to disguise his sleeping while watching opera. After the opera finished, they were walking home when Cheung Fung curiously asked about the sunglasses. Chi let her put them on, but she couldn’t see a thing where she was walking. This was the opportunity that Chi had been waiting for all the time as he held Cheung Fung’s hands and guided her home.

Even though Sau Ping loves Chi, it was obvious her favourite is Chung. However, she isn’t completely unreasonable as the following scene shows. Upon knowing that Chi gave negative advice on Chung as the new leader of the bureau, she demanded Chi to be kicked out of the bureau as well as the family. She also went on a hunger strike until Ching Tong gave the keys to Chung. A few days later, Sau Ping’s health is getting considerably weaker and Chi couldn’t bear to see her suffering any longer. So Chi went into her room, knelt down in front of her and begged her to eat again. Sau Ping stubbornly refused until Chung got the keys of the bureau. Emotionally, Chi told her that he would do anything to please her, but she also knew what kind of person Chung is and he certainly wasn’t a leader type. He told her to consider the bureau’s future and the fact that Chung would probably be better off and happier when he isn’t the chief. Such a powerful speech has touched Sau Ping to the deepest of her heart and she finally started eating again.

There is another scene with a great speech, but this time it was given by Sheung Chung. Their uncle Ching Pang forced Chung to take over the keys from Chi in front of the whole bureau. However, he stood firmly in his shoes and said that the keys belonged to Chi. This came as a surprises to everyone, even more to Chi. He just stood there, immobilised and touched by the words of Chung. You could clearly see that even Chi believed that Chung would take the keys. In Chi’s eyes, you could notice the pride that Chung has changed and matured. Definitely one of the nicest moments between the two brothers which was enhanced by their great performances.

One of the most tragic scenes in this series has to be the death of Yan Ching. Yet it was the impact of her death on Ching Man which created another memorable scene for “Safe Guards”. When he was reading his wife’s letter, I could feel a chill through my spine. He conveyed so many emotions by just reading the letter out loud. In between, Yan Ching was seen fighting off thieves and ultimately she passed away, sacrificing herself for the bureau.

Comments
The chemistry between the entire cast was just magnificent, especially between Steven Ma, Wayne Lai, Ram Tseung and Kwok Fung. The same goes for Ram Tseung and Kara Hui. They all seem so at ease with each other. Their interaction was also very warm and familiar. Seeing them together, you instantly wish you could be a part of them.

This series was very well-received in Hong Kong as well as overseas despite its lack of famous names. So why was it so popular? In my opinion, it has different factors. First of all, the amazing performances of the male cast just draw you into the story. Secondly, I know it is quite a typical plot with three brothers fighting for the chief position. However, the scriptwriters brought the story to life with witty and great dialogues. They also worked out the story in depth, yet still maintained its believability. Thirdly, the characters are all well-developed and multi-dimensional. Every character has good and bad traits, but these characters also underwent a subtle change. By the end of the series, you could see that they have matured. Lastly, they took care of the ending nicely. It wasn’t too rushed, but they did keep on going with ‘six months later’, ‘one year later’ and ‘three years later’. They also covered every character’s life.

What was actually the purpose of Lai Lok Yi’s character? He only appeared the last few episodes and his only contribution was informing Chi of the coming of a new era. Of course, this was important information for the future of the bureau, but I do believe that Chi already understood that something was going.

Verdict
Initially I didn’t have any plans to see this series, but after strong recommendations of the blogging community I gave in and rented it. I am really glad I did. It has a believable and nicely worked-out storyline which keeps you interested and excited due to its pace and performances. You won’t get tired of this series, even if you have watched it the second, fourth or umpteenth time.

Rating


Miscellaneous
Try to get your hands on the theme song of this series, sung by Steven Ma. Nice flowing lyrics, a powerful voice and a melody that just keeps on playing in your head.


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