Monday, July 19, 2010

WTF Thailand?!?: Chai-Lai Angels

Thailand is a weird country.  In the last several years, they've been trying to break into the action market and become the modern equivalent of China in the 1970s with the explosion of the Shaw Brothers.  Has it worked?  Well, they aren't producing over 200 films a years,  They have had their share of hits and breakout stars, including Tony Jaa.  He's not the only commodity they have though.  The actor who plays his buddy/cousin in The Protector and Ong Bak respectively has a pair of action films with himself as the lead.  I mention him because he has a small role in today's film, a 2006 action/comedy attempting to mimic the Charlie's Angels films.  That's Thailand for you- keeping it topical!  Seriously though, the film is a very odd mix of comedy, action and...well, mostly just comedy.  I will do my best to keep this thing logical, but I'm only one man.  Get out your 'wah wah' machine for my review of...

The film begins with a group of people getting on a plane and going for a flight.  A few of them stand out as being odd, including a man in drag and an oddly-pregnant woman.  The mother of a young girl gets up from her seat and is followed by the man in drag.  The man in the seat behind them takes her place and reveals that they are holding the girl's father hostage.  By the way, the father is Japanese, making him the only one in the movie- odd.  He refuses to give up some mysterious Pearl before all hell breaks loose.  The 'pregnant' woman is actually a lady spy, as are a pair of stewardesses on the plane.  This is juxtaposed with another woman showing up at the house where the man is being threatened, leading to a fight there too.  The thing about Chai-Lai Angels is that it is basically five fight scenes strung together with a very silly plot.  Seriously, this fight scene runs for about ten minutes straight, alternating between fighting, comedy and a car chase.  On land, the woman chases the villains out of the house, but, sadly, the Japanese man is shot.  Our heroines, ladies and gentlemen.  We get a car chase, shoot-out and escape all in one scene.  Back on the land, our heroines meet up with their boss (the aforementioned Petchtai Wongkamlao).  He delivers all of his lines in a separate shot a la Hal Holbrook in Girls Nite Out, which strikes me as odd.  Was he that busy?

After about three or four minutes of set-up, the group is set-up to keep an eye on the girl at the school in a series of disguises.  In a bit of odd writing, the girl is grabbed by the bad guys- that was sudden.  You know what this means- a second fight scene/chase takes place.  This takes up another several minutes, but is split up into even more sections.  One of them is driving a little car, one of them is riding on top of the villain's van, another two are in a wheel-driven cart and the fifth one is in the van itself.  Did you put enough staging into this damn scene, guys?!?  Seriously, this scene is ridiculous, even if it does have some good moments.  Ultimately, one of the women fires an RPG at the van- so much for saving the girl, I guess- but the van moves and it blows up the friend's car.  They try to catch up, but are too late.  In one awkward edit, we see the girl suddenly in the villain's base and kicking ass.  Yeah, this movie is not good about setting up scenes logically.  This kid proves to be tougher than all of our heroines, kicking the crap out of the henchmen.  You know how to make this movie more enjoyable?  Make a drinking game out of every time you see an obvious bit of wire-work.  The main bad guy shows up and the girl...just stops fighting.  Wow, that's great writing.

I won't pretend that much of this really makes sense.  Our heroines spot the villain's girlfriend at a spa and try to catch them, leading to a chase/fight scene.  Eventually, we get distracted by a plot involving one of the angels getting engaged.  On the plus side, it leads to her dancing around in her bra for a few minutes.  What was I talking about again?  Oh yeah, they get attacked in their home and have to escape, eventually battling a group of foreign (read: not Thai) assassins.  One of them saves the day by showing up in a tank (see above), but things still don't turn in their favor.  The fiancee ends up captured (off-screen, mind you) and the villains find out where the Pearl is.  They steal it, despite the best efforts of our heroines in...bikinis and...being wet.  Ahem.  Another awkward edit and we see the villain's auctioning off the Pearl, which apparently has some magical powers.  The Japanese dad shows up, but he just gets shot again and actually dies this time.  This leads to the final fight section of the movie, which, shockingly is also cut up into several parts.  The comedic part involves the man in drag's half-blind henchman screwing up, while the serious part is a one-on-one fight with the boss.  Shockingly, he dies a violent death via pair of bullets to the brain.  Damn, that's random!  In a closing epilogue, we learn that the Chai-Lai squad has two new members: the half-blind woman and the little girl.  One long action scene that amounts to nothing later and the film ends.

Say it with me now: this movie sucks1  Don't get me wrong- hot chicks doing martial-arts is something that I will never, ever complain about seeing.  This film ruins that, however, by making it all about ridiculous comedy, bad acting (I watched it with subtitles, so you can't blame the dubbing) and just pure oddness.  So much of this movie simply exists to make you go 'why?!?'  Why is there a man in drag named King Kong?  Why is there a half-blind henchman?  Why is there a kid flying around and kicking people for one scene and only one scene?  Some of this stuff does hit the mark, but it's few and far between.  For example, they make a point about how they can't have people they love because they always die tragic deaths (as opposed to nice ones, I guess).  Sure enough- they set up a romance sub-plot and the man dies.  The problem is that this stands in pure contrast to the silly faces, wacky lines and oddball humor.  You can't just throw something like that into a movie and expect me to go along with it!  Chocolate is an odd movie that's a mix of melodrama and action.  It doesn't try to mix in humor with its violent deaths.  If you have Netflix and want to see the weird shit that our foreign neighbors put out, I recommend this one.  If you want to watch a good, Thai action film, watch Ong-Bak 1 and 2, The Protector, Born To Fight (the 2004 one), Dynamite Warrior or Chocolate.  There are a few good parts to see here though...

Next up, a foreign rip-off so effective that Universal sued to have it pulled from theaters.  Will it have bite or just bite?  Stay tuned...

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