Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Review: Bangkok Adrenaline - Part Two

Okay, so try to follow along with me as I describe the plot so far.

We start with four friends.  One of whom is a world-class martial artist, one of whom is the brains of the group and a high-quality marital artist, one of whom is a mountain of a man portrayed as being dumb as a post and always hungry, and one who I swear is the cause of everything wrong in this world, somehow, and has less character sympathy than your standard Nazi in an Indiana Jones movie.

At least the Nazi might have a family out there somewhere that cares about him.

After falling in debt to a local small time crime boss (a guy who breaks fingers over $90 American money), these four losers decide their best plan of action is to kidnap the daughter of a local millionaire/billionaire/somethingaire.  However, between their own incompetence and the fact that Irene's father (she's the girl in this situation) is apparently a "one man mob boss," things are even worse than before.

Irene's two bodyguards manage to attach a tracking device to the, quote-unquote "good guys" of the film, the extremely skilled martial artist (Dan) and Irene have a brief "meet cute" where angelic voices sing, and we left off after the group's leader (Mike) just learned something from a bondage fan at a leather club about Irene's father, leading Mike to provoke the father into admitting he'd rather have Irene dead than rescued because of...reasons, I guess.

Now, with a hit squad on the way, Irene's bodyguards closing in, and our four male leads having no idea what to do next, you might be thinking "wow, Erik, this sounds like an even dumber version of the Mark Wahlberg/Lou Diamond Phillips/Christina Applegate movie The Big Hit" to which I say "yes, I realized that as well."

So let's jump back in and see if we can't stomach our way through it.





Having revealed to Irene that her father wants her dead, Mike decides the best thing to do is rub it in her face while she sobs against Dan.  Lek and Hans, the bodyguards, contact Irene's father to let him know they have the address of where his daughter is being held.  He notifies them "no weapons, just grab them, I'll handle the rest."

While the guys try to explain to Irene that her best chance is to "run to the nearest police station and tell them everything" (because they'll really believe a kidnapped girl claiming "my kidnappers found out my father wants me dead") Conan (the big, muscled one) spots the tracking device stuck to the back of Dan's sweatshirt.  It's at this point a truly intimidating force shows up to fight the guys:


Guys in black clothes driving hotel shuttle vans.  I know, I'd be scared, too.

Irene tells the guys to find her bodyguards if anything should happen to her.  This is instead of having her CALL her bodyguards to tell them "hey, come get me here, my father just offered to pay these guys to kill me."  This obviously isn't the smartest crew in the world on any side of right or wrong.

Irene walks out the door and is immediately grabbed by two of her father's goons.  She reacts to this by not shouting out any warning to her new "friends" and instead simply kicking their butts across the front porch.


We learn two things here:

1)  Irene knows some martial arts of her own, which has now elevated her slightly from your standard "damsel in distress."

2)  She wears granny panties under tiny denim shorts.


Lek and Hans, watching the whole thing, are understandably confused by the fact that she's fighting with her "rescuers."  A second-tier goon grabs her and drags her to a van, though, which is when thirty or so guys emerge from the other three vans and storm the place.

We don't get much of a fight scene here, as Mike gets torn to pieces by Lek and Hans (strangely enough, they don't believe him when he says that her father is the real danger and that they were trying to help her), James jumps a fence abandoning his friends, and Conan gets pinned by eight guys and slowly shuffled over to a van to take him into captivity.

Dan, on the other hand, gets to take part in a pretty great chase scene as he jumps and parkours his way across bridges, rooftops, and jumps over large carts, using the bodies of his enemies to break his falls.

James isn't completely useless, however, as he calls over a tiny taxi to follow one of the vans.  He decides it's time to call in some cavalry to save his friends since he's, y'know, useless.


No, he's not calling in the short "American-ish" action hero on the left, he's calling in the guy not even flinching as he gets kicked and punched by an "American-ish" action hero.  The guy on the right winds up completely beating the tar out of the guy on the left,

A young blond woman holds up a phone for Jacque (our newest "hero") and he answers it by taking it from her and then headbutting her in the face before talking into the phone.

This movie has severe issues with women.  If they aren't being forced to pee themselves or dance in bondage clubs, they're getting assaulted.

John is apparently also in the hole to Jacque to the tune of 50,000 baht ($1,536.41 American), but he promises that if Jacque helps rescue John's friends (and "save the girl") he'll have a million baht, easy.  He gives Jacque his current address and asks him to "hurry."  Jacque and his crew gear up with guns, ammo belts, and gloves and prove themselves to be genuine action heroes by keeping all of their gear in an old abandoned plane near their fighting pit (you can see the wing in the above picture).  They climb into a jeep and...struggle to get the engine to turn over.

If I could put a sad trombone sound effect here, I would.

Back in a large local market, Dan continues fleeing from his pursuers, doing some neat jumps over stalls, using a grabbed knife to slice open some bags of rice (making people slip and fall like they came into a Scooby-Doo episode), and finding that there's one guy who's able to do more than keep up, he can jump over people and kick Dan in the chest.  It's all some pretty great build-up to what will hopefully be a great fight scene.

Unfortunately, we need to cut back to James and Jacque, whose squad just arrived via public transportation.  Again, insert the sad trombone sound here.

Back at Irene's father's house, Lek and Hans get there to find the guy who grabbed Irene all by himself.  They try to learn where Irene is, but the goon isn't really being cooperative.  Lek and Hans react to this by beating him up and then have Hans hold him by the ankles over the edge of the roof until he shares what he knows.

Once the goon reveals that "the boss" wants to kill Irene at "the winery," Lek tells Hans to pull the goon up so they can go save Irene.  Hans...has difficulty with this.


So, I think that might be our first actual casualty so far, as the goon goes "splat" on the front driveway pretty hard.

Dan continues being hunted down by the über-goon, finding him waiting around corners, at the tops of staircases, and pretty much ahead of him anywhere he tries to run to.  He tries fighting him, but the goon seems to be pretty close to his equal.  Unfortunately, part of the fight happens in a really narrow alleyway, meaning the camera doesn't have a lot of maneuvering room to let us see what's happening.

Back at James and Jacque, the rescue operation is underway.  They open the sliding metal door meant for vans, allowing Jacque and his crew to stand there quite impressively...until the one guy guarding the place pulls out a machine gun and, I'm kidding you not, shoots them all before they can even draw their guns.

I'd feel bad for them, except that one of them felt that this was a good idea to wear:


Seriously, guy on the left, what are you doing?  Did you hear "assault in the middle of the day to rescue some losers" and think that night vision goggles (or a cheap knock-off Virtual Boy) was the answer?

Needless to say, James is quickly captured.

We finally get an explanation for everything that's going on, as Irene's father (I just can't really be bothered to learn his name) explains to her why he wants her dead.  Apparently her mother's side of the family had all the money, and upon her mother's death, her grandfather set it up so she would inherit all the money when she turned twenty-one.  Her father, used to a particular lifestyle that stems from spending his daughter's future money comes from, figures he can simply have her be killed and then he inherits the money from her.   If we needed an additional reason to hate him, it turns out he also had Irene's mother killed back when Irene was little, to set the wheels in motion.

Her father also decides that his little girl needs to get cleaned up, so he has one of the goons take her off to the showers that wineries apparently have installed, and I really can't think of a good reason for this scene to take place except it will let us get our main female lead in nothing but a towel soon and we had to have some way for her to get away from her father for a bit.

Back at the warehouse where Conan, Mike, and James are being held, a different group shows up to rescue the three while they bicker about whose fault the whole mess is (read: James and Mike, it's their fault).


It appears that, in order to rescue Irene, Lek and Hans realized they need meat shields to block bullets additional support, and went to get these three instead of going to the authorities.

So, the three captured guys are rescued, and everybody's all set to rescue Irene...except for Dan, who's still running away from the guys chasing him.  They finally corner him on a roof for another pretty exciting fight, but the whole thing is weighed down and rather ruined when you realize "there's absolutely no reason for this fight to be happening.  If Dan had been captured with the rest, they'd all be saved together now instead of being apart."

At the winery, Irene ditches her guards (of course), and when the "good guys" leave the warehouse, it turns out that apparently Jacque is also the superhero Wolverine, because he isn't going to let being shot by a machine gun keep him from going on the job either, since he really, really wants to either get paid or beat the spit out of James.   Oh, and when James points out they should grab the guns, Jacque points out that they're all fake.

Um, there's the machine gun that the guy used to kill all of Jacque's friends.  I'm pretty sure that wasn't fake.

Back at the winery, Irene is being one part damsel in distress, one part eye candy, and one part running gag, as apparently every goon she comes upon can't help but lose their train of thought when they get a glimpse of skin.


Now, I'll freely admit that I think Priya Suandokemai is an extremely attractive woman.  She's also providing some of the only real acting in the film, and her humor scenes (at least the ones that don't involve James) were rather funny.  However, it really feels like they're going for the cheapest possible laughs here when they take a character who has previously shown herself able to handle herself in a fight and have her give goons nosebleeds from looking up when following her up a ladder and passing out from the loss of blood to their brain.

I'm also not sure about the scene where she intentionally flashes one of the goons who corners her just to have him reveal he's gay and not really giving a damn about her naked body, simply dragging her back to be captured.

Thus the entire previous scene was completely pointless except to exploit one of the only talented people this movie has for a few tasteless laughs.

The "good guys" show up at the winery, as do about fifty or so goons that Irene's father calls in to stop them.  It's essentially turning into a bad video game now, with small isolated fights that let everybody (yes, even James) have a moment to shine.  The only ones that are really worth mentioning are Dan's fights (strange how that works) and Conan, who simply throws goons around like he was the Hulk.  There's one rather impressive stunt where Conan lifts a guy up over his head and Dan jumps from the top of a forklift to catch the guy in the chest with his legs and drop him into a pile of trash.

In a confrontation with Irene's father (who I just noticed is wearing the absolute worst pair of glasses with flip-down yellow "shades" I've ever seen), Hans proves that "anybody can be bought" and fights Lek.  It's an okay fight, but nowhere near the speed or intensity of the ones that Dan is involved in.

Fortunately, I was able to find an example of one of the fights involving Dan online.  Here you go, if you want a sample:




Irene's father takes her to a car waiting outside, but Dan attempts to give chase with the help of the most easily convinced cab driver that ever lived.  However, one of the stronger goons (one who actually manages to break Jacque's neck, which I would have pointed out happened if it weren't for the fact that a) I hate Jacque, and b) he keeps coming back from the dead anyway) also gets onto the cab, and we get one of the more fun fight sequences as Dan and this other guy swing themselves around a small vehicle moving at (moderately) high speed trying to kick and punch each other off of it.

Unfortunately, this ends with the cab driver being kicked out of the vehicle, and Dan just managing to jump free before the goon dies in the fakiest fake explosion to ever fake its way out of Fakerstown.

Seriously, the explosion is so bad, I had to stop the movie because I was laughing so hard I fell out of my chair.

While I was trying to pick myself back up and wipe tears from my eyes, the two cops from a looooong time ago hear over their radio that an explosion has occurred in the train tracks by the "wine factory."  They immediately jump into action because, "wait a minute! Mr. Harris (Irene's father) owns the wine factory, right?"

We get a complete and total fake-out, as Irene's father has handcuffed her to the steering wheel
of the car and left it on some train tracks with a train approaching.  Dan manages to outrun the train and get to the car, but isn't able to punch his way through handcuffs.  He holds her and swears to not let go as death approaches...just to have it wind up taking a different track at a fork and veer off to the side.

Things are getting pretty terrible.  Mr. Harris decides he's just going to shoot Irene, but is captured by Lek and handed over to the conveniently arriving police.  Lek also talks the police into cutting the "four foreigners" a break and letting them go.

They're taken back to the winery (for some reason), where the four guys are leaving before Irene shows up, slaps Dan, then kisses his cheek in a very platonic way and asks him to "stop by and see her some time."  The four walk off into the distance, all their problems obviously over...

...unless you count the fact there's a local crime boss who's going to empty several rounds of ammo into their heads within a few days' time.

Strangely enough, the guys made no profit from their little adventure AND Dan didn't even technically get the girl, since he's leaving with his idiot friends instead of swearing to spend the rest of his life with a rich, gorgeous woman who seemed to fall in love with him the moment their eyes met.

Okay, let's break this movie down.

The Good:

The fights involving Dan are, by far, the only real reason to watch this movie.  The other stunt actors are okay, but Dan throws himself into each action scene completely.  There's no hesitating before kicks to make sure that you're the right distance to not actually hurt anybody, he's willing to take some impressive blows instead of simply dominating each fight he's in, and like I said last time, he really does have a strong screen charisma (at least for this movie he does, he's no Dwayne Johnson or anything). You can tell that he was a national champion martial artist, as he moves with a confidence that takes a lot of practice to pull off without it seeming fake or "too Hollywood."

Priya is also really good in the lead actress role, with just enough positives from her performance to keep how she was utilized from putting her in the "bad" category.  While the film does go for some cheap cheesecake laughs, it doesn't really exploit her as much as it did, say, the women at the BDSM club or the blond woman who gets hit in the face by Jacques, just there to take a blow in a cheap attempt at a laugh.

The setting is also well-used, you get a good sense of just how massive a city Bangkok is simply by small things.  Varying degrees of, for lack of a better term, sophistication show many different sides of the city, from the cheap slum areas where the leads all get into trouble to the more well-defined business districts to the poor residential neighborhoods.

Oh, and Conan was also pretty good, though I need to make a note of something in the "bad."

The Bad:

While researching some of this movie (don't let it be said I don't do my homework) I found the blog where Conan talks about the fact that he almost wanted to quit the film at one point when he realized his character was going to just be another "big, dumb guy."  I can sympathize, since if I was cast in movies primarily to just be "the dumb one" I'd be rather sick of being typecast.  The movie doesn't really give anybody any characterization beyond standard archetypes (the dumb one, the leader, the handsome one, the living cyst who brings the rest of the group down, the hot chick), which is a shame, because if the movie had actually spent time fleshing out these characters some, the movie might actually have been more enjoyable.  It's really hard to connect with these characters and understand just how much trouble they're in when we know literally nothing about them other than their names and appearances.

James, if I haven't made it blatantly clear, is terrible.  His humor scenes are the lowest of all the low-brow humor, he can be blamed for most of the things that go wrong to the rest of the group, and really doesn't contribute anything to any of his scenes that couldn't be done by anybody else.  Or simply by having a sign in the ground with his dialogue printed on it.

Also, Hans might be the worst actor I've ever seen in my life.  Which is too bad, when you consider that his acting name is Lex Luthor.  Even more of a shame when you realize that for this movie he went by the actor name "Lex de Groot."  I was fully prepared to have a guy sharing a name with a Superman villain AND a talking tree be my favorite actor in the whole thing, but if I was telling terrible puns, I'd say that Groot was less wooden than Lex's acting skills.

Overall:

With a terrible script that leaves out key informational scenes and necessary bits of dialogue to connect its fragments together, a badly hashed together soundtrack, bad acting, and bad pretty much everything else I can think of, this movie is terrible.  It's probably one of the worst I've ever seen, and its only, ONLY saving grace are the fight scenes starring Daniel Patrick O'Neill and the few good Priya scenes.  Oh, and Conan.

But it's really not worth sitting through the rest of the film.  I'm pretty sure you can find an edited mash-up of all the fight scenes in the film on Youtube, and if you don't care about context (and why would you?) you can watch them all in one short block and be happy.

This movie is bad, bad, BAD.  It's not even mindless popcorn fodder, simply because it tries to act like it has a story when it has nothing and leaves huge flashing signs pointing at every hole in the plot.

Also, I don't think I've ever seen a film give a credit to the "Waterboy/Watergirl" before.  Or why the movie needed three of them.

Some mysteries will just have to remain unanswered.

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