banner image

:: The Guillotines

“The Guillotines” is set during the 5th year of Emperor Qianlong's (Wen Zhang) reign. A rebel cult known as “Herders” assassinate Qing officials while Wolf (Huang Xiaoming), the leader of the cult, promises his followers eternal life. A secret group of assassins known as The Guillotines do the Emperor's bidding and plan on ridding Qing of Wolf and his Herders once and for all.

The Guillotines begin as a group of seven: Leng (Ethan Juan), Hutu (Gao Tian), Chen Tai (Purba Rgyal), Su (Guo Peng), Buka (Zhou Yiwei), Shisan (Jing Boran), and Musen (Li Yuchun). After Wolf is captured by The Guillotines, Wolf reveals to Leng that he's been dreaming that Leng will eventually kill him. Musen, the one female Guillotine, is abducted once Wolf escapes. Haidu (Shawn Yue), an Imperial guard sent to help apprehend Wolf, has a deeper connection to Leng than is initially let on. The prophecy Wolf has foreseen begins to unfold while The Guillotines start to crumble from within.

The guillotine weapon is incredible as the special effects become extremely intricate whenever it’s required to bring the device to life yet the film struggles to make a computer generated cobra seem realistic. The film relies on slow-motion a little too much as it starts off enhancing action sequences, but is then used for trivial things like running from here to there or whipping a cape around in the air. “The Guillotines” has what should now be known as the “Baywatch” effect; there's entirely too much attempting to look cool in slow-motion.

The film has moments where it seems like it's fantastic. Certain shots leap off the screen because of the location, lighting, and rich colors utilized in the film while the imagery can be so powerful at times. Something as simple as a two second shot of seeing dark, crimson blood drip off of an ear of corn or the blade of a soldier says so much more than any action sequence ever could. The film is also incredibly tragic in its second hour. Haidu is a ruthless and heartless monster who isn't afraid to put his talents to good use.

But there's far too much of nothing going on to really appreciate anything the film has to offer. “The Guillotines” would have been far more interesting if it actually revolved around the unique weapon that more than likely got you to watch the film anyway.