Monday, August 14, 2006
Title: The Bodyguard [Wong Kom]
Cast: Piphat Apiraktanakorn, Tony Jaa, Apaporn Nakornsawan, Aranya Namwong, Petchtai Wongkamlao, Pumwaree Yodkamol
Director: Panna Rittikrai & Petchtai Wongkamlao
The Bodyguard is a Thai film that went straight to DVD, unlike the recent run of martial arts films like Ong-Bak, Born To Fight and Warrior King. The sleeve for the DVD describes it as the triumphant return of Ong Bak's Tony Jaa, which it is, if you count the blink and you'll miss it cameo 3/4 of the way through the film. But hey - all hail marketing and the suckers who fall for it!
Instead Petchtai Wongkamlao is the star of The Bodyguard, as well as co-director. Petchtai Wongkamlao is apparently a well-known Thai comedian, and played Jaa's cousin and sidekick in Ong-Bak. The girl who in turn played his sidekick in Ong-Bak is also in The Bodyguard and in fact has a bigger part than Jaa. With Wongkamlao in charge of this piece, The Bodyguard is more of (an intentional) comedy - though initially on watching it I did have my doubts. Strangely it's during a funeral early on that I actually started to find the film funny!
Wongkamlao is the titular bodyguard to a prominent businessman - the head of a corporate empire. There are gangsters and hostile board members, all keen to try and attack his position. An elaborate hit is made, overwhelming the bodyguard's best efforts to protect his boss. So the boss is killed and the son takes power, and the bodyguard is disgraced. The son's rejection of the hapless bodyguard means that he isn't in a position to protect him when an attempt is made to kidnap him. The spoiled brat son ends up hiding out in a poor village where he is forced to re-evaluate his approach to life. In the meantime he meets a young woman who works as a paramedic and for the good of her community, while the bodyguard and gangsters are both keen to find the rich kid.
As the film progresses we work towards an all out parody, all the pieces are set for a final confrontation and Wongkamlao goes for full spoof. A series of increasingly more ridiculous and contrived fights with "master" combatants.
Given the somewhat poor production values of some of these Thai films, The Bodyguard is slicker and more solid than one might expect. And once it gets going it is a pretty decent comedy.
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