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The Bodyguard (2004)
19th Sep 05
A bodyguard is fired after failing to protect his boss, but soon finds himself re-hired when the gang of thugs turn their attention to the boss’ son.
With the great Ong-Bak recently crossing borders and starting a new action film trend here in the west (write here the obligatory words – No wires! No CGI!), it’s no surprise to see the stars and crew behind that great Thai head-cracker of a movie reunite here for The Bodyguard. Written and directed by Jaa’s co-star in Ong-Bak, the actor, comedian and TV host Petchtai Wongkamlau, The Bodyguard freely mixes action, romance, tragedy and comedy, which for the most part works fine, although a blend of this many spices together may mean this Thai dish will be an acquired taste.
Opening with a shoot-out at a wedding function with fast, frenetic gunplay and reasonably ingenious martial arts moves, bodyguard Wongkom (Wongkamlau) strives to protect his boss from an assassination. The fight soon shifts to outside (via a nervous TV reporter hiding under the table) to accommodate a joyful stunt involving four BMWs colliding in mid-air (both ridiculous and a highlight at the same time), but Wongkom ultimately fails in his job’s description as his boss is shot twice. Although still alive when taken to hospital (we witness two orderlies arguing about his chances of survival), he doesn’t last much longer, and promptly dies, to be missed by all, especially by the singer, at his funeral.
Of course the boss leaves everything to son Chai (Aphirakthanakarn), who then becomes the next target for the killers (including a great appearance by moron Dave from Buppah Rahtree). Cue another assassination attempt which results in a hilarious swimming pool visual gag, a naked chase through the city (think Jackie Chan meets Benny Hill) and a water pistol up the bum(!) with Wongkom finally ending up in a mental institute to avoid being taken out by the gang of thugs. Oh well, at least he’s better off than Crazy Frog.
With no protection left, Chai decides to take cover in a nearby shantytown and ends up staying with a dysfunctional family which includes Ong-Bak leading lady Pumwaree Yodkamol as the tomboy daughter Pok. Obviously, Chai begins to take a fancy to Pok, but when he starts making donations to nearby hospices, he begins to attract attention to himself, and the colourful band of thugs (led by a renegade board member of his father’s company) are soon sent out on the mission to kill the son. Only The Bodyguard, Wongkom can protect Chai and save the day.
Packed with action and several Thai movie-in jokes (“Thanks Black Dick” “Wrong movie!”) The Bodyguard works in the majority, especially if you have a taste for all things Thai and spicy. The opening hour is easily the best part of the film with the terrific hotel shootout scene, the 4-way car stunt and madcap chase sequences adding to all kinds of anticipation of amazing action.
As soon as Chai meets up with Pok though, the film switches focus towards more of a romantic-comedy feel, and whilst this works in parts, it’s a little of a come-down after the first hour’s adrenaline-pumping opening. Sure, there’s Tony Jaa’s much reported cameo appearance as a grocery store shopper still to come, but at only three minutes long this scene feels too short, underused and just leaves us begging for more.
The comedy works well throughout the film in that particular Thai way of being able to take the mickey out of retarded people (affectionately of course), but even that does fall flat towards the end and the multi-fight ending is less about nail-biting tension (there are wires all over the place!) than a string of rather lame jokes.
Fight all over, it’s time for the obligatory emotional happy ending which actually does work well (“Hey, it’s Chai! He’s on TV!”) and we do get some great clips over the end credits too with the outtakes proving to be genuinely funny (especially anything with Dave and the wrestler character who complains that he’s only had ‘three words in one scene all this movie!”).
Overall then, The Bodyguard is not bad at all; the film starts well, suffers a little punishment in the middle before picking itself up again in the last ten minutes just enough to win you over. It’s not as brutal as Ong-Bak, or as spectacular as Born To Fight, but by fusing its action with comedy and romance, this is one film that you will comfortably be able to watch and enjoy with a loved one and Green Curry takeaway.
The Bodyguard (cert. 18) is released on DVD (£15.99) by Momentum Asia on 19th September 2005. Special Features include;
"Making of" featurette
Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS,
DVD-Rom content featuring cast and crew biographies
Thai Cinema articles.
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