Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: Jakkalan (This Girl Is Bad-Ass)


  • Directed by Petthai Wongkumlao
  • Starring Yanin Vismitananda, Petthai Wongkumlao, Athit Amonwet, Akhom Pridakun
  • Released in Thai cinemas on April 28, 2011; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 2/5

The just-revealed international English title of Jakkalan (จั๊กกะแหล๋น) is This Girl Is Bad-Ass. And yes, Jeeja Yanin is all that. Unfortunately, her fierce brand of martial-arts action is secondary to an extremely lame-ass collection of one liners and sight gags by director Petthai "Mum Jokmok" Wongkumlao and his comedian cohorts.

Playing like an outtake reel of scenes from various Sahamongkol comedies, romances and action flicks, the problem with Jakkalan is a lack of focus. A bit of Bodyguard here and Chocolate there, with some Crazy Little Thing Called Love (and even Love of Siam) tossed in, it could've been decent, but it's instead a disaster.

An unwieldly, kitchen-sink blend of comedy, romance and action, Jakkalan is too loosely plotted, with unfunny jokes, fight scenes that have no resolution and a cast that's overstuffed with Mum's showbiz pals who were apparently allowed to run wild with whatever dumb gags they could come up with. By comparison, past directorial efforts by Mum, like his first Bodyguard movie, the soap-opera satire Wongkumlao or his country comedy Yam Yasothon were much more tightly scripted and way more entertaining.

But those movies were mainly for Thai audiences. And if Jakkalan is to be made a success internationally, it'll need to be significantly retooled, but then there isn't that much there to begin with. Folks overseas want to see Jeeja, but her scenes come too few and far in between the nonsense.

Jeeja is a tomboyish young woman named Jakkalan who's been raised by her uncle (Mum). She works for a bicycle messenger service, and, in bowing to the current fad in Thailand for fixed-gear bicycles, Jeeja pedals a fixie. She even uses the bike as an effective weapon in the first big fight scene. But that takes forever to get to because first there are scenes of Mum taking care of little Jakkalan as she grows up, from a precocious rugrat to a rebellious 10-year-old who beats up all the bullies in the neighborhood.

Uncle Mum runs a street stall selling movies, which gives him a chance to note that he only sells authorized copies (only by Sahamongkolfilm of course) and issue a frustrated but ultimately self-serving and unfunny diatribe against movie piracy.

More "comedy" is provided by ubiquitious yukster Kom Chuanchuen, who wears outfits that seem to have been put together from the discount bin of the BDSM department at a thrift store. The only way you can protect yourself against the heinousness of what the clown Kom is wearing is to close your eyes whenever he's onscreen, which is a lot. He plays the boss of the bicycle messenger service.

Meanwhile, there's a weird young guy (Akhom Pridakun) with bad teeth who has a crush on Jakkalan and is always hanging around, asking Mum for advice on how to approach her. The fact that he keeps calling Mum's character "Uncle" seems strange, even if you owe that to the convention of Thai people referring to their unrelated elders as "uncle", "auntie", "older brother", etc.

But Jakkalan has her eyes on a long-haired neighbor guy (Athit Amonwet) who's a rock musician, and this gives her a chance to act like a goofy teenage girl in puppy love – a side of Jeeja that hasn't been seen, and it's actually pretty adorable. There's also a couple scenes where Jeeja forgoes the T-shirt, jeans, trucker's hat and sneakers and is dolled up in a dress and make-up.


She has some comedic bits as well, and acquits herself in a scene in which she delivers rapid-fire insults to that weird guy who keeps pestering her.

Jeeja's even funny when she's fighting, and the key to that is pretty simple: Instead of frowning, all she has to do is turn on that sweet smile while she's punching a dude's face.

Her job at the messenger service involves delivering mobsters' cash and some kind of illegal "stuff". It's never explained what the "stuff" is, but it's probably drugs. She's actually keeping a chunk of the mob's money, as well as some of the "stuff", which gets her in trouble with the two ridiculous mobster outfits she's working for. Like the samurai Sanjuro in Yojimbo, she finds a way to play the rival mobsters off each other. But that's a plot point that gets lost amid all the drawn-out jokes and tiresome romantic overtures.

The fight scenes don't come often enough, and when they do, they don't last very long.

The first fight has Jeeja taking on a crew of bad guys trying to retrieve the mobster's dough. They come tumbling out of a small van like clowns from a tiny car in the circus. And Jeeja wastes them all with a combination of muay Thai kicks and fixed-wheel, backwards-riding shenanigans. One of the bad guys even gets stabbed with a knife, repeatedly, borrowing Stephen Chow's schtick from Kung Fu Hustle.

Another fight has Jeeja tangling with a female fighter (Alisa Sonthirot) in a schoolgirl uniform, like Go-Go in Kill Bill. But the schoolgirl isn't really all that fierce, and soon Jeeja faces a half dozen or so guys, and gets creative by using bicycle sprockets as throwing stars, hexagonal nuts as knuckle dusters and bicycle-tire innertubes to tangle things up. The CGI blood sprays and again it's all over too soon as Jeeja is pointlessly faced off by a group of trash-talking female mob enforcers brandishing pistols.

The frayed and frazzled plot threads finally come together for a long, dragged out ending, involving a shootout between the mob factions and the police in a warehouse. Jeeja again faces the schoolgirl, but the focus isn't on her so much as letting Mum's comedian friends get in on the action. Even Mum and his stunt double throw a few punches and kicks.

The cavalcade of comedians is endless, with all the Chuanchuen family taking part (they beat up their dad, though since he's not playing their father in the movie, that's apparently okay). There's also appearances by Sudarat "Tukky" Butrprom, Pongsak "Teng Terdterng" Pongsuwan, Yam Yasothon co-star Janet Khiew and others.

The best part of the movie is the end credits, where the identity of one of the mobster's sycophants – a guy in a zipper-mouthed mask like the Gimp in Pulp Fiction – is revealed, and he lets loose with a tirade against Mum that keeps going until the screen is dark.


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4 comments:

  1. the problem with most thai comedy movies are, people not thai will not find the jokes funny:/

    unless the movie was directed by someone who knows how to direct a comedy movie, like 13 beloved and 4phobia.

    ReplyDelete
  2. hi where can i find this movie with english subtitle?? :P

    ReplyDelete
  3. This movie wasn't jeeja yanins best movie, but it was good and watchable. It was one of those fun movies to watch. I agree about the part where only the Thai's would get the joke as this movie was made for Thailand, as with many other thai films. Foreign audiences wouldn't get the jokes and have to learn that every movie that's made in other countries isn't targeted at or meant for them all the time. So they can either take it or leave it. This movie wasn't that bad, foreign audiences just expect way too much from movies.

    ReplyDelete
  4. what are the real names of the other four female gangsters dressed in black?

    ReplyDelete

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