“This Girl Is Badass” (2011)
by A.J. Hakari
Thailand is the Troma of martial arts cinema. Other countries have their over-the-top exports (hell, Japan’s Cutie Honey movie filled its quota of zany for three millennia), but the Thai seem to have a knack for taking the ridiculous to especially towering heights. Titles like Dynamite Warrior and The Bodyguard (not that one) are replete with random, bawdy flourishes that either make for a raucous good time or grind on your soul. Placed directly in the middle is This Girl Is Badass, which takes a typical Hollywood action flick’s ultra-thin story and fills in all possible gaps with some of the straight-up dumbest humor you’ve ever witnessed. Sometimes it’s hilarious, and sometimes it’s as funny as a wake, but most of the time, you’d rather it just dump the schtick and get back to the action.
Fresh off her incredible work in the underrated Chocolate, Jeeja Yanin plays Jukkalan, our eponymous tough gal. She’s a bike messenger who uses a variety of flips, kicks, and tricks to get her job done at a lightning-fast pace. But cross her, and she’ll unleash a flurry of moves that’ll leave you with spoke marks where your face used to be. Unfortunately, two local mobsters make this mistake when they both hire Jukkalan to make some deliveries and try stiffing her on the payment. While Jukkalan is occupied with staying a step ahead of every thug and assassin hired to take her out, a childhood acquaintance (Chalermsak Yamkamung) pines for her from afar, unaware that she’d rather be cozying up to the guitar-strumming hunk next door.
Honestly, I could be way off on that plot summary, because even with what little narrative it has, This Girl Is Badass has an unreasonable amount of trouble making sense. First the villains are trying to put one over on Jukkalan (for no other reason than that they’re just jerks), then Jukkalan maybe is stealing from them, then all parties are getting along hunky-dory; it takes talent to complicate a story as simple as “girl beats up bad guys.” But, you may be asking, that plot stuff never matters in these movies — how’s the action? Well, it’s not a thrill-a-minute punchfest, but This Girl Is Badass has some decent fights and stuntwork under its belt. Yanin’s physicality really is as awesome as the title proclaims; there’s no shortage of slo-mo shots of her connecting blow after crushing blow, and her energy perks up even the more sluggishly-paced smackdowns.
But there’s one opponent for whom Yanin is no match, and that’s her own vehicle’s sense of humor. You know that This Girl Is Badass has no aspirations of seriousness when the first five minutes alone introduce us to Jukkalan’s crazy-eyebrowed boss, a high-pitched crime lord, and a gym dedicated solely to training dwarf fighters. None of this or the silliness to follow (which extends to a bickering crew of female killers and a bad guy who recites his own theme music) amount to more than simple sight gags and running jokes…and that’s kind of the problem. We get more scenes of characters just calling each other idiots than we do of Jukkalan taking out would-be attackers, and while maybe it’s a cultural thing that got lost in translation, the resulting laughs are intermittent at best. Bless Yanin for trying her hardest, but she’s not onscreen nearly enough to fully distract us from the lame comedy routines and weirdly-tailored supporting players.
I wish I could champion This Girl Is Badass as a pleasure guilty enough to share with friends, but enduring shenanigans this goofy in one sitting is a daunting feat. Though the fight scenes are pretty cool and without question the best parts of the movie, some brave YouTuber will eventually compile them into a supercut and save you time/tested patience. Jeeja Yanin is a force I hope to see unleashed more often in the near future, but a mess like This Girl Is Badass isn’t going to do her career as a major league butt-kicker any favors.