In the last post I mentioned watching a fun double feature this past Friday night. As described in that post, the party ended up having some interesting, albeit minor, consequences, but no harm done to tarnish the memory of these two comedy movies from Thailand, The Bodyguard (2004) and The Bodyguard 2 (2007).
No connection whatsoever to the same-named high-cheese American film with Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. That film has its moments but also earned seven nominations in the 13th Golden Raspberry Awards.
Last Saturday I watched a different unrelated The Bodyguard (2016), this one a poignant drama from China starring and directed by the great Sammo Hung.
All three movies have ties to the double-feature films I wrote about in the last edition of TV Tuesday (5/16/23).
Firstly, the someday classic, Kill Zone (2005), also called SPL: Sha Po Lang, starring Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung. The sequel, Kill Zone 2 (2015), also called SPL II: A Time for Consequences, is a sequel only in name. Two of the supporting characters from the first film appear in the second, but as different people.
More to the point, neither Donnie Yen nor Sammo Hung appear in that movie. Donnie because of how the first movie ended, but Sammo Hung because he was busy directing and starring in The Bodyguard.
I also mentioned a pair of films starring Thai martial arts expert Tony Jaa: The Protector (2005), also called Tom-Yum-Goong, and its sequel, The Protector 2 (2013), also called Tom Yum Goong 2. I don’t know why the first title has hyphens but the second doesn’t.
Again, more to the point, both versions feature Thai comedian/actor/director Petchtai Wongkamlao (stage name Mum Jokmok) in a supporting role as light comedy relief (he plays a policeman). He stars in the two Thai films I’m posting about today (The Bodyguard and The Bodyguard 2), and Tony Jaa has a cameo in both as comic fight-scene relief.
With both double features mentioned last time (but especially the latter), the sequels don’t quite live up to the originals. (But do they ever?) Part of the problem is that the originals were really good, even must-see for any fan of Asian martial arts movies.
That said, I enjoyed The Bodyguard 2 as much as I did its original. I give all three of these The Bodyguard movies an Ah! rating and recommend them for any fan of martial arts movies. Or action movies in general. Or, hell, even of movies in general.
In fact, except for specific scenes, I’m not sure I’d classify these as martial arts movies. The two Thai films are broad comedies — somewhat along the lines of a Stephen Chow movie — and the Sammo Hung film is a poignant drama.
[If you like comedy-action movies and don’t know about Stephen Chow, you owe it to yourself to check him out. For instance, try Shaolin Soccer (2001) and Kung Fu Hustle (2004).]
Petchtai Wongkamlao (aka Mum Jokmok) stars in and wrote both of the Thai The Bodyguard movies. He co-directed the first one and directed the second. They remind me of Stephen Chow’s movies because of the broad physics-defying comedy (almost slapstick) as well as the many references to other movies.
Because of Tony Jaa’s cameos, there are many references to The Protector. For instance, in the second film, he appears as a street vendor selling elephant statues. As the bad guys zip past in a car, one of them reaches out the window and grabs one. Jaa gives chase, runs them down, fights them, and recovers his elephant. I bust a gut laughing when he ran into the scene and yelled, “Where’s my elephant!” (As he did at the end of that four-minute take in The Protector after fighting his way up multiple flights of stairs.)
[There may also be references to Jaa’s Ong Bak movie trilogy, the first of which made him famous. It’s been too long since I’ve seen those that any references to them passed me by. I plan to re-watch them all again soon.]
These two The Bodyguards feature wire fu and crazily absurd fight scenes (and lots of gun fire). Probably also a ton of references to movies (and maybe even Thai culture) that I missed but sensed from how they were framed. They do contain quite a few well-known Thai personalities.
In the first one, The Bodyguard (2004), Wong Kom (Petchtai Wongkamlao) is a bodyguard to Chot Petchpantakarn (Surachai Juntimatorn), the wealthiest man in Asia. During a carefully planned assassination attempt involving dozens of assailants, Wong Kom almost manages to get his client out alive.
Almost. As they say, “close only counts with hand grenades and horseshoes.”
Wong is summarily fired by his client’s surviving son, Chaichol Petchpantakarn (Piphat Apiraktanakorn), who determines to find the killers on his own. But Chaichol is ambushed, his entire team is killed, and he barely manages to escape. He finds himself in a Bangkok slum where a family takes him in — a romance develops between him and one of the family, Pok (Pumwaree Yodkamol).
The killers are still hunting him, so he has to lay low. Meanwhile, Wong is also seeking the killers in hopes of restoring his good name. Most of the humor comes from the bumbling nature of the Bad Guys. Wong, Chaichol, and Pok, are all played relatively straight.
It’s a comedy, so of course there’s a happy ending.
The sequel, The Bodyguard 2 (2007), is actually a prequel to the first movie, although I’m not sure I see much connection between the two. Petchtai Wongkamlao is billed as Khamlao / Khum Lhau. I’m not sure if that’s two spellings of the same character name or if one is meant as his undercover alias. Or why the character name is different from the first film.
In this one, Khamlao (let’s go with that name) is a black ops counter-terrorism secret agent for the fictional country of Wongnaileum, which neighbors Thailand. (I can’t help but think that country name is a pun or joke.)
He’s sent to a mission in Bangkok, undercover as a luk thung (country-western!) singer working for a record company that’s a front for arms dealers. He becomes popular, performing in one of those huge outdoor concerts. He also discovers a CIA agent undercover as an executive secretary. And he has a wife back home (none was apparent in the first film) who discovers he’s been lying to her about his job.
Both movies are laugh-out-loud funny (although humor is subjective, so I can’t absolutely guarantee you will find them so). Both are quite well done. Be sure to watch the credits for additional fun. Especially funny when you watch these as a double feature — there’s a repeated gag involving a disgruntled supporting character.
Sammo Hung’s The Bodyguard (2016), also, for good reason, called My Beloved Bodyguard, is definitely not a comedy. There’s a touch of light relief with the Korean landlady, Park Seo-Neo (Li Qinqin), who’s in unrequited but mostly quiet love with the main character.
The setting is a city in northeast China, very close to the Russian boarder. The story stars Sammo Hung as Ding Hu, formerly of the Central Security Bureau in Beijing. Now he’s old and obese and suffering from the early stages of dementia.
One night he witnesses a man stabbed to death by members of the local gang, but his dementia prevents him from being able to make a positive identification for the police.
Ding is close to a neighbor’s daughter, Cherry Li (Jacqueline Chan), and cares for her, in part because her father, Li Zheng Jiu (Andy Lau) is an abusive gambler constantly in debt to that same local gang. (In part because of his own past tragedy.)
The gang forces Li to cross the border to a Russian hotel and steal a bag filled with jewels from what turns out to be the Russian mob. Li is able to escape the hotel, but the mobsters realize the Chinese gang is behind the robbery and determine to attack them. Li finds out the local gang isn’t going to write off his debt (as they claimed) and goes into hiding. Cherry, at first with relatives that don’t want her, ends up with Ding.
The local gang, trying to find Li and the bag of jewels, follows Cherry to Ding’s house and attacks. Only to find that this obese old man is no pushover. He still has moves that break their bones. The gang burns down Li’s house, and Cherry disappears. Li shows up at Ding’s bringing money for Ding to take care of Cherry, but before he can escape the gang shows up and kills him. Ding again witnesses a man stabbed to death.
In Ding’s past, during a hiking trip, his granddaughter went missing and was never recovered. This destroyed Ding’s relationship with his daughter and has weighed heavily on his heart ever since. The disappearance of Cherry brings back painful memories, and he’s determined to find her.
This movie is too good to spoil, so I won’t say more about the plot. It’s notable for Sammo Hung’s dramatic performance as well as the special appearance of Andy Lau (who also co-produced). Lau is an award-winning Hong Kong superstar. He’s an actor, singer, writer, and film producer.
Sammo Hung is well-known to fans of martial arts films, starting as a child actor in 1961. He was a major influence in reinventing the genre in the 1980s. He’s starred in 75 films and worked on over 230 (writing, directing, producing, staging fight choreography, or acting as a stuntman). He even has his own film company. If you’re at all familiar with Chinese martial arts films, you’ve almost certainly seen him (or his work).
The two Thai films make an obvious double feature (and probably should be watched together) but I’m not sure what to pair Sammo Hung’s film with. Given that he was originally going to be in Kill Zone 2, but did The Bodyguard instead, and that Kill Zone 2 isn’t a totally worthy successor to the original, I think I’d suggest Kill Zone followed by The Bodyguard.
Kill Zone 2 may, or may not, be worth paring with Paradox, which isn’t titled as Kill Zone 3 but is supposedly a sequel of some sort. Both have Louis Koo and Tony Jaa, but I’m assuming that they don’t reprise their roles in Kill Zone 2. (Just as Wu Jing and Simon Yam were in the first and second films but didn’t reprise their roles.)
Louis Koo has a minor role in the second film but apparently stars in the third. Tony Jaa starred in the second film but has a low billing (suggesting a minor role) in the third. Wilson Yip directed the first and third (and wrote the first), so I have hopes for the third. I’ve got it queued up on Amazon Prime for viewing, probably this weekend.
Stay guarded, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.
May 24th, 2023 at 8:36 am
None of the above The Bodyguards are related to the Russian The Bodyguard (1979), which predates them all. It’s a popular name for a movie!
May 24th, 2023 at 12:13 pm
Speaking of double features, although I watched these on widely separate evenings, This Is Where I Leave You (2014) and Game Night (2018), both starring the inoffensive and generally watchable Jason Bateman.
Neither is anything to write home about (I give both an Eh! rating) but they aren’t too bad, either. I apparently find Jason Bateman movies rather forgettable. In both cases, I thought I was sitting down to watch a movie I’d never seen but quickly realized that, nope, been here, done that. But it may say something that I stuck around and watched them again.
Both are comedies. The first one has elements of drama, the second has elements of action. Neither ask much of their audience. Not sure I’d call either family movies, though. More something to watch if you’re too tired for something more demanding.
May 28th, 2023 at 9:40 am
Watched Paradox (Kill Zone 3) last night. Really very good. Not the someday classic of Kill Zone, but a worthy successor. Definitely better than Kill Zone 2 (although that one wasn’t all that bad). The third seems more of a return to the basics of the first. All three movies are unrelated in terms of character and story but use some of the same actors and production people. All three are worth seeing.
I think I’d still pair Kill Zone with My Beloved Bodyguard (because of Sammo Hung) and then Kill Zone 2 and Paradox as a second double feature.
After I watched Paradox, I watched John Wick 3 (again) in preparation for John Wick 4 (which I just bought from Amazon). While the Wick movies get more fantastic (by which I mean fantasy-like) with each installment, the third one is still a serious crowd pleaser and kick ass movie. Really enjoyed seeing it again and looking forward to watching #4 (probably next weekend).
May 30th, 2023 at 9:38 am
It never ceases to fascinate me which posts get attention and which get ignored. This one is currently tied (in posts written this year) for second-to-last place with this one about the Born rule being Pythagorean (my math posts usually are largely ignored, and I can understand that).
In last place? The Juicy Ghosts post about a (pretty good) Rudy Rucker book (a tetralogy of books, actually). Don’t quite understand why that post fell flat, either! Just one of those things, I guess.