This Girl is Badass
Magnolia Home Entertainment // R // $29.98 // May 21, 2013
Review by Tyler Foster | posted June 5, 2013
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Bike messenger Jukkalan (Jeeja Yanin) doesn't care what the cargo is: as long as she gets paid, she's happy to carry it. In turn, the local gangsters take advantage of her moral flexibility, while her Uncle Wang (Petchtai Wongkamlao, also the director) is concerned about what might happen to her if she signs up for the wrong job. Uncle Wang is right: a local gangster with an unusually high-pitched voice hires her to drop off some packages, and then sends his thugs after her to beat her up and take his money back. Before long, she's in the middle of a complicated drug war with at least two, possibly three rival mob bosses, and she's dragged her employer (Kom Chuanchuen) and Uncle Wang into the fray as well.

Yanin broke onto the scene with Chocolate, another Baa-Ram-Ewe production that positioned her as "the next Tony Jaa" (likely because Jaa was already proving to be a challenge to work with). Pardon the obvious play on words, but her status as a badass is unquestionable; watch any of her movies and it's clear that, studio promo hype or no, she deserves to be unleashing martial arts mastery on screen. However, This Girl is Badass (or the slightly more stylized version This Girl is Bad-Ass!!) is meant to represent a change of pace for everyone involved, and the results are deeply underwhelming. Wongkhamlao, who many viewers will recognize as Jaa's sidekick in Ong Bak and The Protector, has been given the chance to make his own movie, and the guy's comedic instincts take over in this wacky movie that almost forgets to include any of the badassery it promises in the title.

To clarify: this is not "an action comedy." The jokes on display here are pitched with the same kind of subtlety as, say, the jokes in Airplane!. Chuanchuen, for example, has eyebrows and a mustache that curl off his face like a cartoon character, and he travels on a giant stuffed horse with wheels, which he moves by bouncing up and down (assuming I understand the mechanics of his ride correctly). One of the film's central threads involves a fat kid named Duan (Chalerm Yamchamang), who desperately wants Jukkalan to notice him. The fact that he is fat and ugly is one of the movie's favorite jokes, with multiple characters simply telling him to give up and go away (midway through, the movie changes it up briefly by having him tell that to another girl who is supposedly even crazier than he is). Although it's not very funny, there's nothing wrong with any of this material in principle, except that it's probably not what anyone expects when choosing a movie titled This Girl is Badass.

Sadly, Wongkhamlao doesn't have a good grip on how to direct action. There are a few scenes where Yanin finally gets to show off her moves, but Wongkhamlao doesn't know how to hide the seams: the hits lack impact, and the moves are rote in a way that feels like a failure to correctly shoot the choreography. During the finale, there are some slow-motion shots with edits in them, which robs them of impact. It also seems like a crime that the movie doesn't do much to integrate the bicycle into the action sequences. It factors into the first sequence, but "integration" generally means Yayin literally picks up the bike and hits a guy with it, which is not really a bike stunt. Later, she throws gears at some guys and uses some lug nuts as brass knuckles, but the finale is pretty bike-less. At least Premium Rush tried to devise a number of bike-centric stunt pieces.

Beyond the underwhelming comedy and the underwhelming action, there are third and fourth threads that eat up more of the 99-minute runtime. The best of them is actually Yanin's starry-eyed attraction to a hunky guitar player next door (Bawriboon Chanreuang). In the extras, Wongkhamlao expresses his desire to show the bubbly side of Yanin's personality, and although there's a lot of this romance for a movie concentrating on so many other things, this is the one area where he's totally successful -- she's pretty adorable without scraping away any of her tough veneer. The least-served thread has something to do with Wang's dark past, relating to a neighbor who he showers with affection. What I took from it doesn't make any sense at all in the context of the rest of the movie, so I'm going to guess I understood it wrong, but the fact that I think I'd have to watch the whole movie again to figure it out sums up the ways in which This Girl is Badass stumbles.

The Blu-Ray
This Girl is Badass gets really eye-catching neon green artwork from Magnet, with a cool "splatter" effect showing Yanin armed with bike parts. The disc comes in a standard non-eco Blu-Ray case with no insert.

The Video and Audio
Any limitations of This Girl is Badass's 1.78:1 1080p AVC transfer are from the source material. On the plus side, the first and strongest impression the disc will leave is of excellent fine detail, giving the film a distinct sense of depth and dimension (a big plus during fight scenes). However, this clarity is accentuated with some banding during dark scenes, garish blown-out whites, and noisy digital grain. No doubt this is accurate to the film's intended appearance, but that doesn't mean this is a beautiful HD transfer. A Thai DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track actually emphasizes the film's limited budgetary means by accurately rendering some of the movie's small scale acoustics and including punch and kick foley that's noticeably separated from the actual action. I can also guarantee that the viewer will be extremely sick of the score's one generic guitar riff that's used to score every one of the movie's action scenes after about 15 minutes. English and Spanish subtitles are included, along with English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing.

The Extras
Extras consist of two very short making-of pieces: "The Making of This Girl is Badass" (7:03, SD) and "Behind-the-Scenes" (1:57, SD). The former is an EPK-style glance at the production, with an infectiously bubbly interview from Yanin, and the latter is some additional B-roll with no narration or interviews. Both are certainly good examples of generic promo stuff, without too much time wasted on character bios and footage from the film, but it's still generic promo stuff.

Trailers for The Sorcerer and the White Snake, John Dies at the End, The ABCs of Death, The Brass Teapot, and a promo for Live Live play before the main menu, and are accessible under the special features. An original theatrical trailer for This Girl is Badass is also included.

Stumbles on the comedy, stumbles on the action, but offers some fleeting charm from Yanin that might entice some of her really hardcore supporters. Otherwise, skip it.

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