I’m not sure how much historical accuracy there is in the weapons at the center of The Guillotines, but the special effects used to show what they are capable makes them seem more fantasy than fact. This is fine had director Andrew Lau committed to a film of spectacle, but instead The Guillotines attempts to balance between historical accuracy and fantastical action sequences. In the end, both suffer as a result, resulting in a moderately entertaining and modestly realistic historical epic with a rather typical storyline.
The Guillotines were a secret brotherhood of assassins utilized by Emperor Yong Zheng during the Manchurian-ruled Qing Dynasty. When Emperor Qian Long took the throne, he brought Western ideas and technology with him, making the Guillotines unnecessary and expendable. While fighting against the Han Chinese rebels, The Guillotines must also worry about the new army of artillery brought by the new emperor, which could easily be turned on them.
Though The Guillotines is not an action-packed film, and has less hand-to-hand martial arts than many might have hoped for, what action the film has is incredibly violent. The decapitations from the aptly named weapon and subsequent crew of assassins using them are the obvious source of many violence sequences, though there are many others involving more traditional weapons as well. There are a few good sequences here, though some of the action is a bit of a let down considering the buildup and emphasis that is placed on the title weapons.
The Blu-ray includes a making-of featurette, as well as interviews with the cast and the crew. There is also a trailer which shows how much importance is placed on the film’s central weapons.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10
Historical Significance: 6/10
Disc Features: 5/10