The Bodyguard (2004)
The Bodyguard is the directorial debut by Thai comedian Petchtai Wongkamlao, best known to audiences outside Thailand as "Dirty Balls" from Ong Bak. It's a spoof of action/gangster movies, most notably those from Hong Kong. As such, it was pretty easy to follow the plot even though the Thai DVD doesn't have subtitles. Basically, a gang boss is assassinated despite the best efforts of his bodyguard (played by the director). The boss's son is then attacked and loses his memory (meeting and falling for a paramedic played by Pumwaree Yodkamol, also from Ong Bak), and the bodyguard finds himself marked as well. Being a "dangerous hero", he doesn't opt to take this lying down. I'm sure there's more subtlety to it than that if you understand what they're saying, but it was easy enough to get the general gist of the matter. On the other hand, being a comedy and a parody means that understanding the plot is only a fraction of appreciating the film, and obviously a lot of the jokes were wasted on me. There's enough physical humour in the film to keep me from reaching for the fast forward button too much though - and of course the action scenes work in any language :)
The production values of the film are pretty high, doubtless benefiting from the popularity of some of its cast since Ong Bak - in fact, I'm sure Tony Jaa's very brief cameo brought in far more investment funds than it cost. From what I understood it seemed quite witty, and the direction was assured. What I was really there for was the Tony Jaa cameo though, but was rewarded with a bunch of other action scenes that are quite impressive - in a very over the top, comedic way.
The film opens with a banquet which turns out to be an ambush, and a shootout of biblical proportions. The aim is definitely to parody John Woo's action style, with graceful balletics and ballistics made even more over the top than in John Woo's films. There's some amusing gags, and the whole thing is quite exciting and amusing. A later shootout has the hero being chased all but naked through the streets of Bangkok with the villains coming after him with guns, and a shootout in a supermarket is brightened up by Tony Jaa's cameo. He's only on screen for a minute or so, and doesn't do anything as mind-boggling as the action scenes in Ong Bak, but he does show once more that he's a remarkable talent - his speed and power recall Bruce Lee, and his acrobatic skills perhaps Yuen Biao. I hope he's going to have a long and fruitful career :)
The finale of the film gives the bodyguard a chance to engage in some gunless action (because the bad guys amusingly have a "no guns" sign in their lair). The bad guys send their top fighters against him, and he has to find ways to trump a super-strongman, a muay thai warrior and a kung fu hero (replete with Wong Fei Hung theme). These scenes parody the different styles, and feature a lot of wirework to make the fights much, much larger than life.
Breaking the film down into its action scenes certainly doesn't do it justice, but without the benefit of subtitles it's difficult to weigh in on other aspects of the film. It managed to keep me entertained for at least half the running time before I felt the need to fastforward some of the slower scenes (the fairly pointless romance angle). Whether the film is worth spending $10 on probably depends how much 1 minute of Tony Jaa is worth to you (then double the sum to cover the other action scenes). With subtitles it would definitely be recommended, and I'm sure it will turn up with them eventually :)