Jukkalan (Thailand 2011)

Rating: **
Alternate Title: This Girl Is Badass (American title)
Review Date: 2/5/18
Director: Petchtai Wongkamlao
Cast: Jeeja Yanin, Petchtai Wongkamlao

Jukkalan (Jeeja Yanin) is a young bicycle messenger who lives with her stuffy and uptight Uncle Wang (Petchtai Wongkamlao). She's a highly skilled cyclist and martial artist, and she makes some money on the side by delivering illegal packages to rival crime gangs. She eventually gets herself into trouble, and both gangs want her dead.

It's a disappointing outing that sadly doesn't live up to its ridiculous American title. It's more of a romantic comedy than an action film, and the action it has isn't particularly interesting. I find Thai humor even more deplorable than Hong Kong humor, so the film can be excruciating to watch at times. Most of the characters are completely absurd, and I'm sure a lot of the slapstick and visual humor is cultural and lost in translation. Jeeja Yanin is extremely sweet, adorable, and charming, and gets to flex her acting muscles a little more than usual. She performs her fight scenes with power and grace, but the camera has trouble keeping up with her movements and the shots are edited in such a way that they look like a collection of false starts with no pay-off. Her fights also involve a lot of environmental gags, but they aren't fully realized. Gratuitous CGI effects and unconvincing wire work also spoil the fun. However, there are some brutally hard hitting moments sprinkled throughout, as only Thai stunt people can provide.

Petchtai Wongkamlao pulls double duty as both director and lead actor, and I found his unusually restrained performance rather refreshing. I normally can't stand his goofy sidekick roles, but this time he's a somber and sullen man who's hiding in the shadow of a painful past. He plays the straight man to pretty much everyone else, and I don't think he cracks a single smile throughout the entire film. While it's nice to see Jeeja Yanin evolve as a performer, it feels like she hasn't found the right film to really showcase her talents.