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March 12, 2007

Bodyguard 2


Petchai Wongkamlao - 2007
Sahamongkol Film 35mm Film

Now that the dominance of King Naresuan on Thai screens is winding down, new Thai films are now starting to get play. The most popular new film here is Bodyguard 2. Not seeing the first film has proven to be no problem in enjoying this action-comedy, although a little bit of research has revealed that this film is a prequel to the first film. Best of all, this film has nothing to do with a threatened sequel to a film of the same name starring Kevin Costner.

Written, directed and starring Petchtai Wongkamlao, the combination of action and comedy is best in the opening sequence. Petchai is first seen as an unlikely go-go boy in an after hours gay bar that also houses the office of a mobster. A group of incompetent crooks come to meet with a mob boss, led by a gangster who finds himself beaned on the head with a cash-heavy briefcase when not frequently put in harm's way by his own crew. The accidental firing of a gun initiates a series of shoot-outs in the bar, leading to a chase scene involving the gangster racing through the streets in a monster truck armed with bazookas, while Petchai pursues the gangster in a car taken from a dealer, with the surprised car saleman as a passenger, with the car skidding on its side. Nothing in the rest of Bodyguard 2 matches the near perfect combination of sight gags and firepower in that first sequence.

While there is no joke that is too stupid or tasteless for Bodyguard 2, the comedy is, more often than not, actually pretty funny for a Thai film. Some of the humor is dependent on familiarity with Thai popular culture. A cameo appearance by popular starlet Paula Taylor may not be meaningful outside of Thailand. Conversely, one of the bright spots in the film is a brief appearance by Tony Jaa, doing the kind of ass kicking that has endeared him to audiences worldwide. Gags involving body parts or bodily functions make the Farrelly Brothers look like paragons of propriety. Even the presence of a character that looks like Adolph Hitler manages to be fit in with the general anything for a laugh attitude of this film.

Holding it all together is Petchai. Dumpy and square headed, part of his charm is that he is an unlikely action hero. There is a sense of stoicism, and deadpan determination that is somewhat reminiscent of Buster Keaton. In addition to his unassuming physical appearance is Petchai's ability to make himself, literally, the butt of much of the humor. The best comic stars are usually those who aren't afraid of making themselves look as ridiculous as possible. Some of the humor works, some of it doesn't, but the film and Petchai keep on plugging forward. This is the kind of film where you don't mind overlooking that gaps in logic, or filmmaking goofs that can't be covered by tricks in editing. Even the end credit sequence is comprised of an extended gag involving an actor unhappy with his character in the film. Petchai is comfortable enough to make fun of himself as well as the Thai film industry. Bodyguard 2 may be loaded with dumb jokes, but at its best the audience is laughing with the filmmaker.

Cross-published at Twitch.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at March 12, 2007 02:39 AM