HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Judging by the cover art and synopsis, the Thai action-comedy CHAI LAI ANGELS: DANGEROUS FLOWERS (2006) looked so dumb that I expected to have a fun time by not taking it too seriously. After a few minutes, however, it became clear that the only way to enjoy this movie at all is to take it super-duper unseriously, and even then you might have trouble sticking with it to the end.

The story concerns five beautiful (more or less) female agents who live in a mansion, work for a mysterious slob (Petchtai Wongkamlao, ONG-BAK) who sends them on various missions, and are all code-named after flowers. Rose, Lotus, Hibiscus, Pouy-sian, and Spadix are ordered to prevent the Dragon crime syndicate from kidnapping a litle girl named Miki who knows the secret location of an enormous pearl of great value--removal of which from its ocean environment may upset the balance of nature and destroy the ecosystem.

Of course, Miki gets kidnapped and the Chai Lais must spend the rest of the movie trying to get her back while battling the Dragon minions, including a big, prissy transvestite named King Kong and Miki's evil stepmother Mei Ling, who's in on the whole thing. Along the way they encounter a band of super-powerful bounty hunters and an army of what appear to be rejects from the Crazy 88s, while still finding time to fall in love, dance around in skimpy clothes, and look semi-fabulous.

I wasn't sure exactly what the movie's tone was going to be until I started to hear cartoon sound effects during the first kidnapping attempt on a plane. This scene lets us know right off the bat that whenever an action sequence is about to start, all the cameramen suddenly spaz out and start doing the watusi. Rarely have I seen such seriously bad Shaky-Cam, rendering much of what's going on almost incomprehensible and a real headache to try and follow. This occurs in every action scene, which is a major detriment that gives the entire film an overall slapdash quality.

With better direction and choreography, some of this stuff might've been almost spectacular. There's lots of promise to these setpieces, particularly the one in which the Chai Lais are attacked at a beauty spa and must go into battle in the middle of a shopping mall dressed only in towels. A car chase through city traffic has them hanging from a speeding van and leaping from vehicle to vehicle with some impressive stuntwork. Again, however, we're left with dizzying camerawork that turns everything into a kinetic mush.

The fights themselves feature very little actual choreography--they're mainly just a lot of very simple moves edited together. The only person who looks like she's really performing anything of this nature is Miki, who proves quite a handful to her captors. Her fight against a mob of bad guys is pretty funny, especially when some over-the-top wirework has her leaping over their heads and spin-kicking them all into dreamland like a top.

There are the occasional seriocomic romantic interludes thrown in here and there, mainly between Rose and her boyfriend Gus. Her job as a Chai Lai Angel will become a sticking point in their marriage plans, especially after the Dragons capture him to use as a hostage. This subplot provides the film with one of its few really serious moments. Hibiscus, who's cute and shy even though their boss says she has a "hillbilly face", finds herself the object of affection from a handsome young cop who gets involved in the whole mess.

The level of humor varies wildly between occasionally clever parody of films such as CHARLIE'S ANGELS and the kind of live-action superhero stuff Filmation used to do on Saturday mornings, with generous dollops of Adam West-style "Batman" silliness mixed in. SCTV's Johnny LaRue seems to be behind some of the more girlie-show sequences such as Rose's underwear bedroom dance to the film's theme song. Lotus' club dance inside a big plastic ball is also way hot, and of course the girls end up in bikinis before it's over.

Some of the slapstick becomes quite violent as King Kong gets shot, loses body parts, and gets squirted in the face with his own blood, all for comic effect. A late character in the film, King Kong's dimwitted, severely crosseyed protege, ends up shooting him every time she aims at someone else. She and Miki, who's such an effective fighter that she eventually joins the Chai Lais herself, are probably the funniest characters in the film.

The DVD from Magnolia's Magnet label is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1. You can listen to the original Thai soundtrack with English or Spanish subtitles, or an English dub. Extras include about fifteen minutes of cast interviews, two "Spice Girls"-style music videos, and an international trailer.

CHAI LAI ANGELS: DANGEROUS FLOWERS is a loud, colorful mess of a movie that is lighthearted dumb fun one minute and cheap-looking tedium the next. It's loaded with action, but it's so poorly shot that you might go crosseyed yourself trying to focus on what's going on. And it's so cartoonish at times that it almost makes CHARLIE'S ANGELS look like CASINO ROYALE.


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