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Monday, March 28, 2011

VANQUISHER -- DVD review by porfle

The Thai action flick VANQUISHER, aka "Final Target" (2010), is loaded with action but it's a hit-and-miss deal, with several sequences that don't quite live up to their potential.

CIA black ops agent Claire (Jacqui A. Thannanon) is sent to Thailand to capture a terrorist.  She's also ordered to liquidate her "Vanquisher" task force once the job is done, so she takes off in a helicopter with her captive and then blows up the dock that the ladies are standing on. 
One of them, a Thai police force agent codenamed "Gunja" (Sophita Sriban), survives and returns to duty.  When Claire is ordered back to Bangkok two years later in pursuit of another terrorist, she runs into Gunja again, and this time the two warrior women are on decidedly less-than-friendly terms. 

VANQUISHER is nicely directed and shot for the most part, but the fact that this is Manop Udomdej's first action film is pretty obvious.  Camerawork and editing are all over the place in several scenes even though the choreography is good enough not to need such cosmetic misdirection.  The action is often confusing as we try to make out what the seemingly capable performers are doing through a barrage of shaky-cam images.

Still, the film manages to be exciting once things pick up around the halfway point and there aren't so many scenes of people sitting around spouting exposition.  Once all the plot details are ironed out the pace stays pretty brisk through a steady series of gunfights, sword battles, and chases, all featuring an impressive variety of stunts.  The frustrating thing is, you keep wanting these scenes to be better than they are--with more skillful handling, this movie could've been downright exhilarating.

Doing their part to keep us on the edge of our seats are the three leading ladies, who are not only beautiful but can kick some big-time ass in the action setpieces.  At first, Sophita Sriban looks way too cute and likable for the role of Gunja, but this impression is quickly dispelled as soon as she starts slinging a sword or blasting away with twin automatics.  Like Bruce Willis, she has a great "war-face", which director Udomdej captures exquisitely as he does the other female leads--the guy does love to photograph these ladies at their best.

As the duplicitous Claire, Jacqui A. Thannanon has a strong presence and is both sinister and exotic.  The only downside to her performance is that she seems to stumble a bit over the English dialogue--when speaking her native tongue (the film has a bilingual screenplay) she's terrific.  Lovely and lithe Nui Ketsarin plays Sirin, a Thai cop who teams up with Gunja against Claire and her ninja goons, and matches Sophita Sriban's acting skills in the frenetic fight scenes.

A late plot development has Bangkok on the verge of being racked with explosions which the bad cops plan to blame on the terrorists, and, while this angle isn't explored as fully as it should've been, it does give the SPFX guys an excuse to cook up some fake-looking fireworks.  Other digital effects range from fair (the scene where Gunja jumps a dirt bike onto a moving train which is then blasted with a bazooka) to not-so-hot (a ninja turns into a cartoon during an upwards leap).  One of the film's strengths is a robust, percussion-heavy musical score by Patai Puangchin.

The DVD from Magnolia's "Magnet" label is in 1.78:1 widescreen with English and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  In addition to the international trailer, extras consist of an eight-minute "making of" featurette and another which gives us a look behind the scenes during filming.

VANQUISHER survives a slow start to become a hokey but fun guns-and-swords fest with some very appealing female characters.  The main drawback is that you might wear yourself out trying to mentally reshoot and re-edit the action scenes so that they'll be as good as they should have been.

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