bodyguards Viên and Trịnh's latest
assignment -- protecting Henry, a rich brat who becomes heir to the LeMilk
company after his father's death -- will make them sweat: the funeral is not
even finished before Henry is kidnapped by a deadly gang. Bad news for them,
but good news for audiences who have made this a huge hit in its native Vietnam
and now have the chance to see it on these shores with the US release beginning
As our own Todd
Brown pointed out in a previous article, Saigon
Bodyguards reflects the undergoing globalization of the film industry.
Produced by Canadian based Rhombus Media and Korean giant CJ Entertainment,
this Vietnamese action comedy is helmed by Japanese director Ken Ochiai (The
Tiger Mask, Ninja the Monster). Probably due to its international
nature, the film quite stands out from other Southeast Asian productions, which
mostly generate variations of the romantic comedy.
I'm always pretty
saddened to see how insulting it is to use adjectives such as "silly"
or "stupid" to describe comedies. Isn't it the goal of any funny film
to tackle boundaries and push the limits of absurdity? This is why I'm so fond
of Stephen Chow's mo lei tau films and of basically any nonsensical Hong Kong
comedy. Saigon Bodyguards doesn't totally belong to this category but
certainly celebrates the art of being funny without striving to look clever -
perpetuating instead the tradition of burlesque.
A good chunk of
the humorous elements comes from the two main protagonists, who are perfectly
characterized and cast. Whereas Trịnh (Kim Lý) looks like the Vietnamese little brother of The
Rock, Viên (Thái Hoà) fully embraces the typical, lustful clown that is quite
recurrent in Hong Kong cinema. These characters might embody prototypical
figures but through Ochiai and writer Michael Thai's pen, they get both
cleverly portrayed as counterpoints of the clichés they refer to: as such, Trịnh appears as a soft-hearted and
attentive muscle man while Viên proves to be a physically unusual funny
configuration brings the fun in a lot of scenes, where both verbal and physical
types of humor are frequently summoned. Ochiai proves to be a very generous
director and offers many entertaining scenes (the film contains one of the
funniest lessons of philosophy I've ever seen) while fueling his story with
over-the-top setups (there's even a Lan Kwai Fong 3-like boat party).
And of course, the fundamental element of most buddy movies - the inherent
bromance - isn't missing here; on the contrary, there's even a cheesy and
hilarious flashback that nurtures it, with tons of homoerotic innuendos.
So far I've only
mentioned half of the film's core and left the action part out. But rest
assured: even if the first action scene is mostly off-screen, from the
kidnapping scene and the impressive chase that follows, Saigon Bodyguards
will treat you well. Even if we always wish that the editing were less rapid
fire and the shots were steadier, one can really notice how the director did
his best to provide good action scenes, even trying to bring an original take
on it. There is, for instance, a very good scene taking place inside a van in
which the use of space and choreography are very well balanced, as well as an
ambitious attempt at a (rigged) long take. It may be less powerful than that of
Prachya Pinkaew's Tom Yum Goong, but it underlines the will of Ochiai
and his team to offer more than just repetitive fighting sequences.
Where the film
fails to convince, however, is with its dramatic scenes that are hammered by
the use of identical musical cues and that fall quite flat in-between the
continuous jokes. This weaker dimension may well be a minor part of Saigon
Bodyguards, but it doesn't help the sometimes uneven pace of the film that
takes a flew blows during some of the long dialogue scenes. A tighter script
would have helped the film to gain even more entertaining prowess.
With that ending
scene teasing for a sequel, one can only hope this will actually happen and
that the team will make something bigger and louder. Sillier and funnier.
Somehow similarly to his protagonists who look for paternal recognition, Ochiai
lives up to his filmic references. With Saigon Bodyguards being one of
the biggest local hits in 2016 -- even beating Rogue One on the opening
weekend --, the box office seems to be a good indication of it.
Full Article: http://screenanarchy.com/2017/02/review-saigon-bodyguards-doesnt-phuc-with-the-bromance.html