Apparently writer/director/star Mum Jokmok thought the only way to follow up on the success of “Ong Bak” was to make a film completely unlike it. The result: an unrestrained action/comedy embolden by a big budget, extreme wireworks, and outlandish action scenes. To pull it off, first-time director Jokmok casts himself as too-cool-for-school professional bodyguard Wongkom. As the movie opens, Wongkom fails to safeguard his employer’s life. Not a big shock, considering how Wongkom was (in the service of comedy) tossing the client around like a beanbag during a gunfight.
Wongkom is grief stricken over the loss, but the client’s son isn’t having any of it — he fires Wongkom. When it’s revealed that the son has inherited his father’s company, he too becomes the target of assassins. By a series of wacky circumstances, the son ends up in a poor neighborhood where a bickering family reluctantly cares for him. There, he falls in love with the family’s Tomboy daughter, Pok (Pumwaree Yodkamol), and learns what it means not to have money and to be a good person and all that other feel-good stuff.
“The Bodyguard” comes with English subtitles, but most people unfamiliar with the Thai language and its culture will be missing out on a lot of peripheral stuff. Also, the English subtitles often conflict with the original dialogue, most of which were probably made up on the spot by the movie’s cast, which is itself made up of comedians and well-known Thai faces in cameo roles.
But anyway, getting back to our movie:
Meanwhile, the recently fired Wongkom has gotten himself a one-way ticket to a mental institution thanks to another long gunfight and a well-placed bowl. The word ludicrous and unbelievable comes to mind, but that’s not a surprise because “The Bodyguard” was obviously envisioned as a gag from the very beginning. The film is full of highly stylized gun battles that mimic the style of John Woo. White doves even make an appearance at one point. Unfortunately these big gun battles aren’t very exciting, marred by length (they just keep going and going) and in-your-face gags that wink too much at the audience. A little more subtlety and less ham fisted stabs at broad comedy would have done wonders.
What the film does excel at is little joke nuggets from the various cameos, including a couple of father-son hitman team and one of the main villain’s bodyguards, who can’t quite grasp the concept of discretion. In another scene, a bad guy questions why the police want to speak to his boss. As it turns out, the bad guy had reason to be concern, especially since his boss talks in what sounds like a string of senseless vowels. Another gag concerns a van full of SWAT commandos that doesn’t quite make it to a hostage standoff.
For those wondering where Phanom Yeerum (aka Tony Ja), the Muay Thai star of “Ong Bak”, fits into all this overblown madness, they should skip to the supermarket hostage sequence. It’s a very brief appearance and Ja’s scenes are the only ones in the entire movie that doesn’t have wireworks in them. Fans of Ja should note that it’s a very, very brief appearance indeed. Although seeing Ja deliver a flying knee kick to a goon is a treat indeed, it just makes us wish the film had taken its action more seriously and stop winking at us between gunshots already.
“The Bodyguard” opens strong, but sinks badly in the middle. The script is burdened by a poorly conceived love story between Pok/Chonchai, and watching two mediocre actors trying desperately to scrape chemistry together was painful. Jokmok even throws in a multi-car accident out of nowhere to break the monotony of all the unconvincing “love glances” between the actors. For about 30 minutes in the middle, everything basically comes to a screeching halt, just so the film can indulge in its teenybopper romance. Can you say: Desperately catering to the giggling 13-year old demographics?
The film does salvage things somewhat in the end, but once again first-time writer/director Jokmok fails to understand the concept of moderation. The final battles, between Wongkom and the villain’s gang of martial arts bodyguards in a warehouse, seems to go on forever, even well after the gag has fallen flat. “The Bodyguard” works as a comedy, but only if you’re not too demanding of it. It’s dramatic moments fall harder than our hero, who looks every bit like a man in his ’40s, complete with a gut and jiggling naked buttocks.
Mum Jokmok (director) / Mum Jokmok (screenplay)
CAST: Mum Jokmok …. Wongkom
Phanom Yeerum (Tony Ja) …. Pumwaree
Yodkamol …. Pok