Time for some serious kickboxing, sword slicing “tough girl’ action this time out as I give a look at 2010’s Thai action flick “Vanquisher”. Recently released on Region 1 DVD with little fanfare by Magnet, your Favorite Catgirl somehow missed hearing about it…. d’ohh!! Thankfully, Carolyn’s sharp eye caught a peek at it when shopping for us a day or so ago, and knowing what a little action movie goof her girlfriend is promptly snatched a copy for lil’ ol’ me.
Our synopsis goes along like this: “A Thai Special Ops agent, codenamed “Gunja”, narrowly avoids death and betrayal during a dangerous mission, only to resurface two years later to battle a bloodthirsty terrorist plot in Bangkok.
Two years ago, Gunja teamed with American CIA Agent Claire to track an Al-Qaeda member on a mission code named “Vanquisher”. Little did Gunja realize that Claire was instructed to leave no witnesses once their mission was accomplished. Narrowly escaping that assassination attempt by Claire, Gunja quietly goes back to Bangkok, where she is quickly promoted to lieutenant in the Thai Police. Flash forward two years, and a dangerous extremist is planning a devastating bomb attack on Bangkok. Gunja is the only hope for heading off the attack and saving thousands of innocent lives. However, once Gunja finds the situation is not as it first seems and crosses paths with Claire once again, she realizes that this particular mission could very well be her last.”
Now I do like action movies with strong female heroines and Thailand usually knows how to do the action genre pretty well, but your Favorite Catgirl has heard some rather discouraging things about this particular film. Never one to be put off by bad rumor and elated by my sweetheart’s most thoughtful (and unusually successful) efforts to finally score a movie I didn’t already have and somehow managed to miss the release of, I’m gonna hunker down and see what’s what.
Wanna know all about it too? Why then, by all means “Read On”, o’ Gentle Visitor!!
This one’s actually been lurking around since 2009, but was one of those films that came out on Thai disc sans subtitles…. given my lack of success in finding any fansubs available anywhere, I’d let it slip to the back of my mind… forgotten completely till Carolyn arrived home with the Region 1 Magnet DVD in hand, happy to have found “one of those Thai kickboxing movies you like, Miyu…. in English too… that I just know you haven’t seen”. She’s not usually right about that… (although she does try really.. really…. hard) but somehow this time out she’d actually scored!! Given that… she got a big hug from yours truly and we settled down to watch it that very night.
Unfortunately…. I only wish I could say the film itself was worth all her wonderful efforts…. Sigh…
Now I know that the Thai film industry has become one of the major players these days in the action and martial arts genres, but even the biggest fans of such fare would have to admit that “Vanquisher” just doesn’t cut it. Not at all. Missing from it is the gritty bone-breaking realism of movies like “Ong Bak” and “Chocolate”, replaced by the same “girls with guns” notions that made Western made films like “Charlie’s Angels” and “D.O.A” possible. You know what Neko is getting at….. The same silly idea that says anyone can make any action film better by just filling it with pretty women in tight combat gear who might look really sexy, but who also couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag if they had to. An absolutely amazing stunt choreographer and an excellent camera man can sometimes work wonders with such physically untrained actresses… but neither of those guys were apparently available for this film. And that’s a shame… because in most other ways our lead actress Sophita Sriban does make a great effort to look and sound as credible as she can with fairly good acting overall. She can definitely “talk the talk”… she just can’t “walk the walk”.
Combine that with a storyline that is about as confusing as it is contrived and silly and this one is just about dead in the water from the get go. So what is our plot? Well… it’s something about terrorists… and the evil CIA which is doing it’s usual business stirring up trouble to fake an attack on Bangkok that can be blamed on some clueless Muslim separatist group to give the US the excuse to send in the troops to aid Thailand in the “Global War on Terror”. Our heroine nearly gets herself killed at the beginning of the film by the head CIA operative, Claire (played by Jacqui A. Thannanon) and who now is in charge of this latest scheme. You can tell Claire is American because she speaks in English throughout the whole film. Unfortunately… she speaks it really… really… badly. Mind you… the non Thai actor playing her Washington DC boss speaks it just as badly, so hey… I suppose if you were an ordinary Thai viewer you just might think we Americans all talk like we’re reading from cue cards. I’m thinking language lessons could have helped here much more than any amount of stunt training ever would….
Oh…. and for a Thai film there were an awful lot of ninjas running around. Oodles and oodles of them. Don’t have a clue why either… apparently they work for the CIA. Huh? Errrr… yeah…. right…. Maybe the Japanese Yakuza have a “lend/ lease” or “rent to own” program. Either way, the ninjas spend a whole lot of the movie chasing Gunja and getting killed by the bucket load to help fill in the body count. Makes some sort of weird sense because everybody keeps swinging those katanas around like it’s a samurai movie. Given Thailand’s own pride in their homegrown martial arts, I can’t figure out why they weren’t doing something a bit more “kickboxer-y”…. Just made Neko scratch her head and wonder about the whole thing.
As for other plot stuff going on… well, there’s the occasional thing with those Muslim separatists…. but not enough to even know what their beef with Thailand is all about. They generally come across as really well armed peasants rather than “insurgents” or anything remotely dangerous. I think we’re supposed to feel sorry for them… but they don’t have enough of a presence in the story even for that. There’s also no romantic sub-plot here…. and the “buddy cop” storyline possibilities of Gunja and fellow police woman Sirin (played by Nui Ketsarin) are barely explored at all (A shame as both actresses seem to have good chemistry together). Overall… the mercifully short 90 minutes is crammed with loads of badly done fight scenes, explosions, and odd stunt work filmed in an overall choppy and uneven fashion. Very, disappointing indeed.
So…. I can’t say Neko really enjoyed this one as much as I really wanted to. Even Carolyn was disappointed, and for once we both agreed fairly closely on the overall movie experience. So, in wrapping up, I give “Vanquisher” a paltry 2 “Meows” out of 5 and can only hope Thailand treats me sooo much better when next I watch one of their films….. (Still… it was nice of my sweetie to think of me at the movie store…. and I’ll always remember “Vanquisher” for at least giving me that warm and fond memory…)
The Region 1 DVD from Magnolia’s “Magnet” label is excellent, as always, done in a 1.78:1 NTSC widescreen format with both an English Audio dub as well as the original Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 track accompanying it. Subtitles are available in both English as well as Spanish. There’s the international trailer on board, and two extra features consisting of a short “Making of” featurette and a second “Behind the Scenes” one for those interested. All in all, a far better presentation that this one probably deserved. It’s available for around 15$ US, but, trust me, it’s a film only for those of you Gentle Visitors who like sexy Asian girls trying to look tough, not real serious action movie fans….
Trailer? Isn’t there always? (Well… most of the time anyways, Hehehehe!!)