Movie Review – The Guillotines (2013)

The Guillotines
Directed by Andrew Lau
Courtesy of Well Go USA
Release Date: August 13, 2013


I know you’re not supposed to judge a book (or a movie) by its cover, but the picture on the cover of THE GUILLOTINES was enough to immediately hook me. Then, I saw the trailer, and that solidified my desire to see the film. Interestingly enough, however, the movie is not quite as action-packed as the trailer makes it out to be. This is not a bad thing, as the film is a moving, character-driven drama…but I have to confess that with the given premise, I was really hoping for more fighting.

If you are not familiar with THE GUILLOTINES, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Well Go USA:

A secret brotherhood of assassins–The Guillotines–once favored by the Emperor, are now a force of terror and oppression under a new regime. Exiled to a remote village and hunted by a squad of fighters with firearms that challenge their cold steel, The Guillotines must now outwit and outfight enemies from both sides.

I’ve read several negative reviews of this film, however I do not agree with a single one of them. I think many folks went into it thinking it was a straight up action flick, and honestly, I was one of them; but pretty early on, you can tell that’s not what you’re getting. Instead of insane martial arts, this film is chocked full of emotion and artistry, and it paints a vivid portrait of loyalty and duty that can sometimes clash with brotherhood.

THE GUILLOTINES is shot well and looks great onscreen. The CG effects are lower-budget, but they’re of no consequence overall; most of them are used for the weapons, which are also called Guillotines. Each sword contains a razor-edged ring that can be hurled at enemies to decapitate, amputate, or simply maim them. As such, you would think there would be a lot of gore here, too…but that’s simply not the case, either. The lack of carnage was one of the low points of the film for me.

But that shouldn’t dissuade you from checking this film out. It is a taut dramatic piece that focuses on the characters and their individual plights. Some are dealing with loyalty to the Emperor even though he is making the wrong decisions…some are dealing with their destinies as a ‘prophet’ to the oppressed, even though they don’t feel worthy…and yet others are dealing with their loyalties to brotherhood, even though they might not feel the kinship they once did. Regardless of where their personal demons dwell, each character is out to slay them.

Don’t go into THE GUILLOTINES expecting a martial-arts or action extravaganza. If you do, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, watch this one for what it is: a riveting period piece that is driven by the cast. Do this, and you should enjoy yourselves. The film is available now.


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