Let’s go down the list. Retard jokes? Check. Horrible gay stereotypes? Check. Zany slapstick comedy? Check. We must be in Asia.
Asian comedies usually fail to capture my interest for a couple of reasons. Most commonly, the comedy is so cultural that most of the gags fly over my head but the second reason is that it lacks any kind of sophistication. Most of it bears a striking resemblance to late nights on Telemundo as a manchild in freckle makeup and a propeller beanie gets pie after pie in the face. But really, this reasoning is total bullshit. After all, I just gave rave reviews to a slasher musical about a killer furry. Quite frankly, I’m not really sure why Asian comedies don’t get much love from me. It may have something to do with the fact that I just don’t give them a chance and had I done so, I might have liked them as much as I liked the two Thai Bodyguard movies.
I’m really surprised that Stephen Chow hadn’t done this first. I figured that if anyone was going to lampoon the gun-porn antics of Hong Kong Action, it would probably be some Hong Kong personality and not the Thai studio that brought you the Thai Boxing whoop-ass movies starring Tony Jaa. My initial criticisms of Jaa’s features is that his fighting and stunts are on par with some of Jackie Chan’s greatest but Jaa has about as much personality as a geranium. To fill the gaps in his movies and inject some much need character into Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong, comedic actor Petchtai Wongkamlao was added. Good thing, too. The guy is a riot. It would seem that he’s also capable of floating an entire feature, himself.
In The Bodyguard, Wong Kom is just one of the bodyguards that protect the wealthiest man in Asia. When one of the shareholders in his company stages an assassination attempt, Wong Kom is one of only a few surviving bodyguards who have to stave off the attack until he can get his boss to safety. He nearly makes it, too until the last seconds of the firefight when his boss takes a couple in the chest. Irate, the son of his employer fires Wong Kom only to be attacked, himself, after his last will and testament declares him the sole heir of his estate. In fear, the son, Chaichol, disappears into the ghetto and shacks up with a poor family, pretending that he’s broke and learning a thing or two about what it’s like to have no money. It’s all very touching, really. But the guys after him are still looking for him and Wong Kom has to find him before his father’s enemies do.
In The Bodyguard 2, we learn how Wong Kom came to work for his boss in the previous movie. It’s a prequel, an origin story. Wong is charged with infiltrating a terrorist group working from behind a record label front, developing a weapon of mass destruction. He’s as bad ass as the previous movie but is unable to tell his mega-bitch wife what he does.
Magnet Releasing is putting the two movies out on separate discs or on one double feature and both feature the same pace and tone (as well as cameos from Tony Jaa) so it’s quite possible to talk about them together in one review. There’s nothing quite like efficiency.
Pick the most outrageous descriptive terms you can think of. Zany. Madcap. You’re still not even close to describing just how fucking insane The Bodyguard movies are. In spite of their wayward plots, which both have a tendency to go in a million directions at once, they’re a parade of crazy comedic scenes, one following the other, punctuated, occasionally, by extremely violent gunfights and Thai boxing scenes. Bodyguard 1 is probably the stronger of the two in terms of comedy. It’s seriously silly. I’m talking Monty Python silly featuring a character who only makes noises when he speaks, not words. Another who wears a different, bizarre costume in each scene and the main bad guy’s villainous number 2, a man with Downs Syndrome who calls everyone a retard. The sequel plays out a bit like Austin Powers with greater consistency than the first Bodyguard but doesn’t feel as on the edge as its predecessor. It features better pacing and longer, more exciting fights. Both are written and directed by Wongkamlao and the sequel is actually the most expensive movie produced in Thailand. I’d be hard pressed to choose a favorite. Each one outshines the other with their strengths. One is funnier, the other has better, much more ridiculous action scenes.
Tony Jaa cameos in both movies, spoofing his roles in Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong, respectively. In Bodyguard 2, he shows up dressed like the country boy in Tom Yum Goong, chasing some thieves who stole his ceramic elephant. Get it? Both movies reference their sources and use the same “wrong movie” joke in both. Thankfully, both also feature fight scenes from Jaa and they’re as bad ass as you’d expect. That guy is amazing, I tell you.
Ultimately, each movie is jammed with more fart jokes and seriously insensitive gags than you’ll know what to do with. Each one features some fluttering gay guy. How do you know he’s gay? Is he seen dating a man? Of course not! He’s the one wearing the eye shadow and lip stick. Each one features bare-ass male nudity and gallons of blood. In these movies, shootouts result in explosive bullet wounds, geysers of blood from mouths and so on. The violence is every bit a part of the gag, as well. Michael Bay only dreams of a gun fight that ends with four cars colliding and exploding in midair, simultaneously, The Bodyguard makes it a reality. You’re also going to be hard pressed to find a movie where a man without pants plummets from a building to his death when a woman flicks the head of his penis. Every second of each movie is operating on a higher level of crazy. Bodyguard 2 is a little more grounded, as I said, but you get a close up of a guy shitting his pants at a urinal. Ever seen that Jet Li Die Hard ripoff, High Risk? That scene where the dead guy’s rigor mortis grasp on Jackie Cheung’s balls results in him tearing his pants off through the closed door? Imagine two movies that feature nothing but that joke.
I wish that I could claim that I was above these movies. That my taste in comedy was superior to this shit but it’s been a while since I’ve rewound a movie several times to re-experience a joke that made me laugh like an idiot. That joke is a perfectly Indiana Jones moment where a bad guy struts and preps for a bad ass Thai boxing attack with a series of complicated kata only to have his leg broken when Wongkamlao rushes in from outside the frame and breaks a board over his shin. Classic, I tell you.
The two Bodyguard movies take the time tested formula of The Marx Brothers or The Three Stooges and crank the volume to eleven. Everything is loud, stupid and physical. There is no nuanced comedy. Timing has no place here. Each movie is littered with Thai cultural references and cameos but they’re lost on a western audience. Most of us are just going to show up for the Tony Jaa cameos.