Remember Jeeja Yanin, the amazing Thai kickboxing girl from “Chocolate” and “Raging Phoenix”? Well she’s back… or at least she was back…. waaaaay back in 2011 that is…. with the release of “Jakkalan” aka “This Girl Is Bad-Ass!!”, a film your Favorite Catgirl has been impatiently waiting to see… for like…. well…. forever!! The Thai DVD release was, as with most other Thai DVD’s these days, totally English subtitle free…. Auuuugghhh! No fair!! I expected it to quickly pop up in Hong Kong or Malaysia, but no such luck… 😦 So what’s a wannabee Wuxia Princess to do to get herself some bone-crunchin’ kickboxing action with an honest-to-goodness cute girl dealing out the hurt to all the nasty villains? Why keep her lil’ eyes peeled…. and breathe deeply while practicing the Zen-like patience needed to wait out such a release to surface. ‘Cause eventually… as with all good things… it always will. 😉
Our synopsis? How’s this for the short and sweet plot basics: “Jakkalan is a young girl who earns her living as a bicycle delivery courier using a fixed gear bike as her vehicle. When a very important package goes missing, the gangster who gave her the assignment thinks she has stolen it and tries to hunt her down. Then it’s time for her “tough but loving” uncle Sawang and her awesome “bike-as-weapon’ fighting skills to combine to bail her and her friends out of the dangerous situation.”
Ooooh! Ooooh!! Like this wee “Warrior Princess” is soooo there!! Where’s the popcorn? It’s time for me to snuggle with my sweetie, pop in my new Taiwanese English friendly DVD and get a big helpin’ of that sweet crazy action fun. Naturally, I’ll tell you all about it, so whatcha waitin’ for? It’s time to “Read On!!”
Yep. So… this time out it’s Taiwan that finally came to my rescue with the first decently subtitled official DVD available for this Thai film. Now mind you… it had also come out in Australia recently as well, but there it was dubbed into English rather than subtitled, and…. inexcusably for any true Thai movie fan…. was completely missing the original Thai language audio. No original Thai audio track? Say what?? Nope…. now that’s definitely not the way this lil’ lady likes to roll on “Movie Nite”… not at all. Thankfully they seem to agree with me in Taiwan, and so that’s where I plunked down my hard earned money for a look at this one. 😉
So with a title like “This Girl Is Bad-Ass!!” you probably figure we’re going to be in for quite a bit of that Thai flavored brutal kickboxing action that Thai action films are becoming know for among Martial Art fans worldwide. Well… yes and no… In “Jakkalan”, the emphasis isn’t so much on the drama and action, but rather on the more comedic elements that Thai audiences like so much in their movie going entertainment. Not to say that there isn’t sufficient action on hand to showcase Jeeja’s formidable kickboxing talents, but that action definitely moves to a supporting role this time out. So much so, that having watched it as a foreign viewer, I can see why it took a bit longer to surface on DVD outside of Thailand itself.
Thai humor takes a bit of getting used to if you aren’t Thai yourself and “Jakkalan” is stuffed to the brim with it, especially given it’s director Petthai “Mum Jokmok” Wongkumlao, who you’ll recognize from a lot of other Thai films like Panna Rittikrai’s “Ong Bak” and it’s sequels as well as his own comedy/action mash-up “The Bodyguard” back in 2004. Much of the rest of the cast here are also other Thai comedians, friends and colleagues of his all crammed into the plot in an effort to maximize the comedic elements for the domestic Thai audience which loves their brand of goofy antics. For a non-Thai viewer unfortunately the results are a bit less hilarious… thus explaining perhaps the reason it’s taken so darn long to reach a DVD release outside of Thailand itself.
Our main story… such as it is… is that our main heroine Jakkalan (played by Jeeja Yanin) is a carefree roguish lil’ orphan tomboy making her living as a bicycle messenger in Bangkok. She’s being looked after by her uncle Sawang (played by Petchtai Wongkamlao) who has his hands full raising her while making his own living selling DVD’s out of a crappy street stall and hiding his tragic past as some kind of hit-man for one of the Bangkok Mobs. She’s foolish enough to start stealing from the gangster clients who’s money and merchandise she handles and ends up bringing down a world of bad stuff for her Uncle and her friends at the messenger service. Naturally this simple plot means it’ll be up to our Jeeja and those crazy kickboxing skills of hers to save the day and set things right once she learns the error of her ways. Jeeja is winsome enough to pull off her character and it’s nice to see that she’s come a long way acting wise since her breakthrough roll in “Chocolate”.
Not surprisingly, Jeeja is the standout of the entire film, and it’s a shame that she’s not given more actual screen time to show off those new acting skills. Unfortunately a lot of the film’s run-time is given over to that huge cast of comedians as they chew up the scenes with oodles of that odd lowbrow Thai flavored humor I mentioned earlier. I can’t say it’s for the better either. Much of the jokes fly completely over your head if you weren’t born in Thailand or haven’t spent a good number of years immersing yourself in the culture. Some of it is also that kind of humor that relies on wordplay in Thai or one of it’s dialects which always gets lost in translation leaving you reading the subtitles and going “Huh?”.
Luckily, yours truly has spent those years learning some of that stuff through a deluge of Thai film watching, but I can definitely say that much of the antics on hand had my poor Carolyn scratching her head and impatiently wishing for the more “action-y” parts to show up.
When they do, “This Girl Is Bad-Ass!!” certainly lives up to it’s title. Jeeja is in top form and we get plenty of the super well choreographed stunt and fight sequences that Thai action films are known for. Always creative, the best of these take the whole bicycle theme of our film to levels of absolute insanity and showcase petite lil’ Jeeja in action the like of which your Favorite Catgirl can only watch in amazed envy. Here the film is definitely at it’s best and definitely left this wee Catgirl wishing they could have crammed in a bit more of that kind of fun.
Don’t get me wrong… all in all “Jakkalan” isn’t a bad film, or even one that non-Thais shouldn’t be bothered to track down as long as you look at it as what it is rather than what it’s not. It’s not “Chocolate”….. it’s not “Raging Phoenix”… it’s Jeeja taking a bit of a risk to try to step outside the simple label of “kickboxing girl” and see if there isn’t something more for her to do in film. Comedy certainly worked for Jackie Chan’s career… so why not give it a try? (…. And, as my sweetie tells me, she’s certainly a lot more cute than Jackie, especially when she’s all dolled up too. But then my sweet Carolyn does have a certain weakness for adorably petite Asian women… 😉 )
So… to wrap it all up, what’s my overall feeling for this one then? Well… it wasn’t quite the bone-crunching slug-fest I thought it was going to be, and the weird Thai humor fell a bit flat for this very “American” Catgirl, but all-in-all I ended up liking it fairly well for the experience that it was, movie-wise. I give it 3 “Meows” out of 5 for being a serviceable, if not amazing movie watchin’ experience. When Jeeja finishes her recently announced sequel for “Chocolate”, you can be certain this wee lady will definitely be back for more.
The Taiwanese DVD release for this is adequate, with a Region 3 Widescreen presentation, the original Thai audio, and both Chinese and English subtitles. (Although my DVD player erroneously identified those English Subs as a second Chinese one… wrongly thank goodness!!) It’s available most places for around 15-20$ US and if that’s not to your liking, then you can always wait for the Region 1 release, due out from Magnolia this May for around 20-25$ US. 😉
Ah ha!!…. And before this wee Catgirl says adiéu, how about an English friendly Trailer to get you in the mood for some frisky kickboxing femme fun, o’ Gentle Visitors? Enjoy!!