Judge Joel Pearce once got into a naked gun battle, and he didn't like it either.
Our reviews of Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Romance (published April 17th, 2013), The Bodyguard: Special Edition (published March 14th, 2005), and The Bodyguard (Blu-ray) (published March 26th, 2012) are also available.
Comedy and action packed double feature!
Think of The Bodyguard as National Lampoon's Hard Boiled, a film that takes John Woo's Hong Kong actioners, then dilutes them so much that they no longer belong in the same genre. And, just as National Lampoon makes raunchy comedies stripped of any real titillation, the action in The Bodyguard lacks any punch and is interrupted by very long passages of bland comedy.
Both films star Thai comedian Petchtai Wongkamlao (the unfunny sidekick in Ong-Bak) as Wong Kom, the most loyal bodyguard ever. In the first film, his corporate CEO boss is murdered, and he has to protect his son, who has now become a target. Much silliness ensues. In the second, Wong Kom has become a high-level anti-terrorist agent, obviously part of a unit that has no regard for human life, police procedure, or collateral damage. Much silliness ensues.
The Bodyguard starts off with a bang, a rip-roaring action sequence that ignores its low budget roots. It ends with the film's most ridiculous sequence, a four-car explosion that made me chuckle. If this was the beginning, I couldn't wait to see what the rest of the film would bring. I did wait, though. I waited, and waited, and waited. I waited through scenes with characters that have no purpose to the story. I waited through the most inept comedy scenes I've ever witnessed. I waited through long, unnecessary exposition. There is some action towards the end, but it's all joke and no thrill.
Like with Ong-Bak and Born to Fight, The Bodyguard was obviously an announcement to the world that the Thai action industry was ready to compete with the big boys. The other two films knew they couldn't compete in terms of budget, so they competed in human danger instead. They did stunts that nobody else in the world would do, and the results were truly magical. The Bodyguard, however, decided to try to compete with sillier, raunchier jokes. While this formula obviously worked well enough in Thailand to spawn a sequel, it offers little to those of us who won't be filled with a patriotic pride every inch of the way.
There are a couple of inspired sequences, such as a chase sequence where Wong Kom gets chased through the streets naked, but too much of the film consists of bit characters fighting for laughs and trying to upstage each other. The performances are weak, the characters are boring, and the script simply can't hold an audience's attention for a full 90 minutes. Some of the best action comedies of all time have been rough around the edges, but The Bodyguard doesn't even have edges.
The Bodyguard 2 follows the same structure, except with a much bigger budget. This time, the opening sequence is even bigger, and it's pretty darn sweet. The action and comedy is balanced much better, and the audacity of the sequence was a pleasant surprise. Just like the first time around, though, the sequel grinds to a halt after that. The only action sequence before the second half of the film is a throwaway piece with Tony Jaa that has nothing to do with the film. Most of the center portion of the film follows Wong Kom's undercover transformation into a pop superstar, which isn't half as much fun as watching stuff being blown up. Thankfully, when the action does arrive, it's much better this time around. The climactic action sequence is particularly cool, lasting for almost half an hour and containing some of the most ridiculous sequences I've ever seen. For fans of action comedies, I would even give The Bodyguard 2 a wholehearted recommendation.
In technical terms, both films are as good as can be expected. The video transfer of the first film is a bit soft overall, showing its low budget. It also shows some transfer flaws on progressive displays. The video transfer of the second one is much better, though the production team has inexplicably overexposed the stock, so the highlights are washed out through the entire film. The sound transfer of both films is surprisingly active, making not-too-subtle use of the surround channels in the action scenes. The only special features are a pair of production featurettes, and that's really all we need with this set.
Had you asked after I finished The Bodyguard, I would have told you to stay away from this set at all costs. After the second, my thoughts towards the series have softened significantly. While it doesn't have half the fun factor of The Protector and Born to Fight, The Bodyguard 2 has enough thrills laughs to make it worth a spin in the player, if not a purchase.
The Bodyguard series is guilty, but only of a misdemeanor. As such, it is sentenced to a month of community service, after which it can return to Thailand and make as many sexual jokes as it wants.
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