The Bodyguard Review
A frenetic score, guys in suits shooting each other in slow motion - come into The Bodyguard at the wrong point and you’d be forgiven for assuming it’s just another example of standard action fare. Indeed, the cynically inclined may feel that this release is simply riding on the coattails of the cult surrounding Ong-Bak; after all, its star, writer and director is Petchtai Wongkamlau, who had a supporting role in that feature. Yet Wongkamlau is far cleverer than that: certainly, the action is integral, and most definitely holds more sway that the negligible plotting involving business backstabbings and assassination attempts, but The Bodyguard is primarily a film in which he can display his distinctive, irreverent personality.
For starters this is a work which is incredibly tongue-in-cheek. Throughout The Bodyguard we have scenes in which reporters commentate on the action and reveal various plot points. On the one hand it allows our heroes to be typically stoic cinematic types, yet it’s also an intentionally lazy manner of getting such business out of the way. Wongkamlau even goes as far as having one such reporter explain all of the various twists and turns over the end credits – his way of telling us that, essentially, such elements are ephemeral. Indeed, his mind – not to mention ours – is on other things, namely the action and the comedy.
The former is so preposterous that it can’t help but be wickedly entertaining. Four cars fly inevitably towards a mid-air collision; everyone indulges in ridiculous wire-assisted athleticism; and if you’re going to throw an ammunition clip, you can guarantee that it’ll land straight inside the gun. Of course, it’s all played with a straight face, yet the wink, you feel, is never too far behind. Moreover, the amusement continues with The Bodyguard’s decidedly off-kilter sense of humour. Thus we have a chief villain with a sartorially challenged henchman (his Mexican wrestler outfit being the pick of the bunch), bizarre dialogue (“You sleep like a transvestite being raped”) and male nudity à la Jackie Chan. In fact, its frenetic energy and sense of glee isn’t too far removed from Chan’s City Hunter - we even get outtakes over the end credits – albeit with a fouler mouth and greater sense of irreverence (at one point Tony Jaa, star of Ong-Bak, arrives for his cameo only to be told “That’s another film, dickhead”).
Yet whilst Wongkamlau’s refusal to either himself or The Bodyguard at all seriously produces so many pleasures – when Kevin Costner undertook a similar role did he get committed mid-movie or have a tramp squirt a water pistol up his ass? – it also means that a handful of problems slip through the net. Occasionally, it becomes just a little too crass, such as when it indulges in some camp gay stereotyping, or digresses a little too far in one direction. At one point we find Piphat Apiraktanakorn’s character heading into the slums for a subplot in which he learns some humility, a move which results in a huge dose of sentimentality and slows the dynamism whenever he’s on screen. Indeed, these moments leave an unwanted sugar taste, but then seeing as they only total about 15 minutes of screen time, this still leaves 80 with which to provide sheer enjoyment.
The Bodyguard comes to Region 2 DVD in somewhat disappointing form. Whilst we get an anamorphic transfer, the image is often far too soft considering the film’s age, or rather lack of it. Otherwise, it’s a clean print, but surely we should expect better. As for the soundtrack, things improve with the option of DD5.1 and DTS mixes. Admittedly, there is little to separate the two, but both are impressively dynamic and make fine use of all channels. (Note however that the English subtitles which accompany the film are of the burnt in variety.) With regards to extras, these are sadly limited to a brisk, amusing ‘Making Of’ in which Wongkamlau once again demonstrates his charisma and irreverence, plus trailers for the film itself as well as Ong-Bak and Born to Fight.