I'm the first to admit that I thoroughly enjoy the work of director Prachya Pinkaew, actor Tony Jaa, and actress Jeeja Yanin. Their work on 'Ong Bak', 'Tom Yum Goong', and 'Chocolate' changed the martial arts genre in a great way. Instead of relying on CG effects and wires, these three take real hits and have a stunt team that in turn takes their blows. The effects are real, powerful, and a lot of fun. And if you've seen the above mentioned films, you know that you would never want to get on Jaa or Yanin's bad side, as both are very proficient in delivering lethal elbows and kicks to the head at high speeds.
Unfortunately, in this action-comedy, the elements don't mix well. A lot of the comedy comes across as odd and unusual, rather than funny. On top of that, the fight scenes aren't executed well at all. They all seem to be phoned in, with none of the "Holy Sh!t!" moments that we've grown accustomed to. Instead, we only get a few lazy fight scenes, ridiculous and zany characters, and silly plot points. I hoped for something better here, or at least that the fight scenes would be impressive, but nothing here was badass as the title suggests.
'This Girl is Badass' sort of reminded me of 'Premium Rush,' which starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a bike messenger who gets into a sticky situation. Here, we have Jeeja playing Jukkalan, a hardcore chick who is a bike messenger in Bangkok who lives with her uncle Wang (Phetthai Wongkamlao), a local video store owner. You'll recognize Wongkamlao as Jaa's co-star in 'Ong Bak' and 'Tom Yum Goong' as he usually provides the comic relief and this time as director. Jeeja is not the typical bike messenger who delivers packages from place to place. She basically delivers drugs and money for two rival mob bosses. What could possibly go wrong there?
Well, Jeeja has been skimming off the top of each delivery, and when her bosses find out, they send out their minions to destroy her and take back their product. Needless to say, they have no idea who they're messing with as they're met time and time again with harsh kicks, punches, and elbows to every part of their body as Jeeja triumphs fight after fight in order to escape and take her stash of money to travel the globe.
Seems like it could be an interesting and fun story, but as we're introduced to each character, who seems to be more laughable than the last, this film turns into a "so bad, it's good' movie, worthy of a 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' joke. For example, one of the mob bosses named Boss Seng has an absurd high pitched voice, where the other mob boss, who goes by Piak, has a BDSM gimp as his best friend and employs female assassins to do his dirty work. None of this makes sense. Then we have Jukkalan's direct boss, who sports a Hitler mustache and animated eyebrows, and rides around almost naked on a contraption that might have been conjured up on one of Terry Gilliam's acid trips.
There is a bit of a love story in this off-beat film that has a boy named Duan, who dresses like a bad 70's game show host and loves Jukkalan. However, Jukkalan has eyes for her next-door neighbor who would rather spend his time focusing on a certain part of his anatomy, than women. It's all so ludicrous, that you'll think you're watching a film by a 13 year old with a case of A.D.D. One of the only decent moments in the film is a fight scene that takes place in a bike shop, where metal gears are thrown like Chinese stars and bike tires and spokes are used as weapons. The climactic fight is sub-par at best and takes place in a pottery factory for no reason whatsoever, other than the hope that the actual breaking of pottery might look and sound good on film. It doesn't.
I only wish Pinkaew had lent a heavier hand from his producer role, for the film needed some stability and flow. Not just a visualized version of his comedic routine. If you are looking for an action packed martial arts film with some great and innovative fight choreography, look elsewhere. However, if you're looking for a schlocky cult film to play drinking games with, this might be your golden ticket.
'This Girl is Badass' comes with a 1080p HD transfer presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This movie seems to have been filmed on the lower end of HD digital cameras, therefore it has a few problems throughout. The detail seems to be sharper in closeups, defining facial lines and wrinkles along with good textures in clothing. However, in the wider shots, the image goes soft. The colors do pop here, but the brighter colors seem vague and pale with some contrast issues. The black levels look good and run deep and inky.
There is a bit of aliasing throughout, but it seems like this was a problem from the source, and not the coding from Magnolia. Due to the source material, this video presentation suffers from a few problems, but Magnolia appears to have done its best to keep the compression troubles away.
This release comes with two audio options. One is the original Thai DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix, and the other is the English version in the same codec. I always prefer the original track to dubbed mixes, but here, since the film itself is so ridiculous, nothing is lost and both would suffice. The dialogue is always clear and easy to understand with no evidence of cracks or hissing. The sound effects are loud and pack a powerful punch. No matter if it's a gun shot, a kick to the face, or a body hitting the floor, the sound is loud and forceful.
The ambient noise does a good job here that lets the surrounds and rears get a decent workout. The music of the film might be the loudest part of the audio track, as it always takes superiority over anything else. There are tons of crescendos, fast paced music, and softer sounds that will enhance the mood, almost to a fault.
'This Girl is Badass' is not the film I was hoping for. If you're looking for a movie similar to 'Chocolate' or 'Ong Bak', you will be very disappointed. From it's over-the-top characters to it's cliched slow motion fight scenes in the rain, you'll easily become bored with this off-the-wall action comedy. The video and audio are okay at best here with some less than thrilling extras. If you are super-fan of Thai fighting films or of Jeeja, then I'm sure this is right up your alley. For the rest of us, rent this at midnight with a few drinks handy.