Magnolia Pictures // 2006 // 102 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 15th, 2009
Action has never been so sexy.
Or so corny!
These so-called "dangerous flowers" are an are elite group of crime-fighting super female agents who combine martial arts skills with cleavage-enhancing tops and have names like "Rose" and "Lotus" and "Hibiscus." When the world is threatened they're called into action, and it's action that they love, getting into car chases and gunfights and escalator-to-escalator combat.
Their biggest challenge lies ahead: to protect a special little girl who has possession of something called the Andaman Pearl, which controls ocean currents or something. Anyway, cleavage and fighting!
And that's about all you're going to get with this, a high-calorie, unfulfilling syrupy bonanza that has a lot in common with the U.S. Charlie's Angels movies, which have so obviously inspired it. Chai Lai gives you plucky, attractive women; bombastic action that doesn't satisfy; a loud, boisterous soundtrack; plotlines that make no sense; needlessly gimmicky villains (yeah, buddy, we get it, you're a transvestite) and a superfluous "dancing by yourself in your underwear" scene. The R-rating is a mystery, as the content is light-hearted and most of the beat-downs are played for laughs. Shave off a few blood spurts and this could have easily been a PG-13 outing, much more fitting for the tone.
I wish I could say I had as much fun with Chai Lai Angels as the actors appeared to have, but I'd be lying, and during this Holy season how about we keep the sins to a minimum? Despite the over-the-top energy and near-incessant action (there is virtually no downtime between the set-pieces), the Angels bored me.
As characters they were fine, if forgettable. Rose (played by the beautiful Bongkoj Khongmalai) is the top banana and she's the only one that stands out. Of course that could be because she was the one who danced around in her bra for no discernible reason.
The main problem lies with the action. Frankly, I was expecting more from the studio behind Ong Bak. A lot of mayhem and explosions are tossed on screen but they have no bite. The wire-assisted, quickly edited hand-to-hand combat sequences especially disappoint, and there are a lot of them. The result is a busy movie that annoys more than it engages.
But maybe that's all you want out of a Friday night fling with some bodacious Thai women who light a bunch of pyrotechnics. You could do a lot worse I suppose. The DVD that awaits isn't bad, featuring a very nice 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, two active 5.1 mixes (Thai and English), a making-of featurette and music videos.
This kind of bubblegum action just isn't my bag. If you're drawn to femme fatales gyrating to pop music and walking in slow-motion while wearing bikinis with the occasional exploding car tossed in, there might be value here.
Guilty. Bye bye Chai Lai.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Music Videos