The Bodyguard - On the back of the runaway success that is Ong Bak, Momentum Asia picked up two related Thai action movies - Born to Fight and The Bodyguard. Written, directed by and starring Petchtai Wongkamlao, the film features many familiar faces from the breakthrough Tony Jaa hit including Petchtai himself, and while advertised as "featuring the return of Tony Jaa" it has to be said that he only makes a cameo appearance here. Such is the marketing clout behind the man Jaa. However, before you set out to see his upcoming Tom Yum Goong, you may want to check out this earlier film featuring his returning co-star, Petchtai.
The plot, such as it is, involves Petchtai as the titular bodyguard Wongkom who fails to prevent his boss Mr. Chot from being assassinated. Mr. Chot's son Chaichol inherits his massive business empire, but shunning the services of Wongkom he only narrowly escapes being kidnapped. Hiding out in the local slums, Chaichol sees how the other half lives and simultaneously develops a conscience and a passion for the beautiful paramedic, Pok. Of course it won't take the kidnappers long to locate Chaichol and Wongkom will find it his duty to save the day.
But the plot isn't really what the Bodyguard is about...
The film is inconsistent, featuring poor continuity, some diabolical acting, obvious wire work, ridiculous somersaults, bad camerawork, poor fight editing and frightening wigs, and Tony Jaa only features for literally two minutes. Don't go just yet though, as the Bodyguard is one of the best action film parodies there has ever been. Right from the opening action sequence the disastrous use of slo-mo gives way to some of the most inventive and ridiculous scenes you could imagine.
Throughout the whole film there are bizarre asides and little comic touches peppered amongst the weirdo action sequences, all serving to highlight Petchtai Wongkamlao's career as a comedian before becoming Tony Jaa's action sidekick. Not all the jokes work as many are linked to Thai culture, but there are enough hits to keep you laughing through the course of the movie with all manner of bad craziness.
Also returning from Ong Bak and his directorial debut Born to Fight is Panna Rittikrai, here responsible for the invention and spectacle in amongst the jokes in the action sequences, still managing to provide things you haven't seen before (and that's just in the first ten minutes!).
Whilst the disc only offers Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS in Thai with no dub, it's understandable as for such a low key release without a dub already existing it is unlikely that Momentum would record one especially for the UK market. Thankfully they have done a great job with the subtitles, conveying all the humour perfectly (though it would be interesting to know the literal translation for the frequent swearing).
Extras include trailers for the Bodyguard, Born to Fight and Ong Bak, a 12 minute making of consisting of behind the scenes footage and cast interviews, and some decent DVD-ROM articles about the film, Thai film industry and main crew biographies.
Whilst not the head-cracking Tony Jaa-fest some may be hoping for, the Bodyguard shows a love for action films in the numerous parodies of familiar set-pieces, chucking in some off the wall nutso flashes of humour in between. Called by some the Takeshi Kitano of Thailand, Petchtai Wongkamlao's comedy roots shine through, and you could have a hard job finding a film that mixes action and comedy with such success.