The Vanquisher

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“Coherence? It’s vastly over-rated. Especially in Thailand, it appears.”

Thailand appears to have become a hot-bed of action-heroines in the past couple of years. Jeeja Chocolate Yanin is obviously a key component, but others appear to be leaping on the bandwagon: this one plays like an entry in the Angel series, a Hong Kong classic in its day. Unfortunately, so little effort is put into explaining what is going on, or who is doing what to whom, that the copious action feels like a showreel for participants. Both Chris and I nodded off for a bit in the middle, which is about the worst condemnation any action film can receive. Hence, I turn to Amazon.com for a synopsis.

“After completing a covert mission in southern Thailand, CIA agent Gunja (Sriban) finds herself forced to fight off operatives who’ve been ordered to take her out at all costs. She survives and after two years of laying low, re-emerges in Bangkok to face her old foes and foil a plot to detonate a bomb in the city.” Oh, so that’s what it was. Actually, I seem to recall a good chunk being about trying to capture a renowned terrorist, but that must be the “plot to detonate a bomb” bit. It’s filmed in a clunky mix of Japanese, English and Thai: I can’t speak for the first and last, but the English spoken appeared, far too often, to be of the second-language type. And the non-Caucasians in the cast were even worse. Hohoho.

The action is plentiful enough in the second half, especially compared to a first half that throws characters and plot-lines across the screen, largely without explanation as to purpose. It does improve somewhat in motion, with three kick-ass characters; or at least, who might be kick-ass, if the editing and cinematography ever gave a chance to see them doing so. Instead, it’s about 10% “Oh, that was cool,” and 90% “What happened there?” – in other words, about the same ratio as the plot. A nice idea, than in the right hands could have been an awful lot better.

Dir: Manop Udomdej
Star: Sophita Sriban, Jacqui A. Thananon, Saito Kano, Kessarin Ektawatkul
a.k.a. Final Target

Chai Lai Angels

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“If you only watch one Thai Charlie’s Angels knock-off this year…”

66% extra free! That’s the major difference here, as five, rather than three, little girls, who get their orders from an unseen “boss” and his faux Bosley, take on a variety of disguises and kick butt, in between romantic dalliances. Of course, with a budget approximately one-eightieth of the Hollywood version, certain economies have to be expected. But there are unexpected bonuses in the lunatic invention department, such as the when the villainous henchmen drops a cage, out of nowhere, onto four of our Angels, only for the fifth to come to their rescue, for no apparent reason either, in a tank. At moments like this, you can only laugh with the film.

The plot is a nonsensical as ever. They are assigned to protect little girl Miki, who knows the location of a pearl worth billions of bahts, which also maintains the balance of the oceans [See! It’s a film with an important message!]. When they fail to do so, they then have to rescue her from the evil Dragon, who intends to sell off the pearl to the highest bidder. He has an army of bumbling minions, the main one of whom is a thoroughly unconvincing transvestite, assisted by a cross-eyed underling whose aim poses more of a threat to anyone but the target. Yeah, the humour goes for all the difficult targets. It’s probably funnier to a Thai audience: one senses from the comic timing there are pauses for laughs where no Western audience will find any.

The action is plentiful, if occasionally wobbly. Ektawatkul, as Pouy-sian (Crown of Thorns), comes across best, as you’d expect from an actual Tae Kwon Do champion, but also doing her own stunts in a car-chase sequence. I did appreciate the editing, which manages to keep things coherent even when there are four or five separate fights going on – The Expendables could learn a lot there. Miki might have the best wire-assisted kung-fu moves; she’s a bit like Hit Girl without the swearing. There’s also a fight scene where the Angels are wearing towels, though this is strictly PG-rated. Like the rest of the film it’s harmless but entertaining fluff, at its best when it parodies the conventions of the genre, e.g. when one of the Angels only fires her gun in ridiculous poses, such as through her legs. While not quite enough to become Undercover Brother, it passes the time painlessly enough.

Dir: Poj Arnon
Star: Jintara Poonlarp, Bongkoj Khongmalai, Supakson Chaimongkol, Kessarin Ektawatkul