The Magnificent Five (Review)

The Magnificent Five

aka Phra-dek-seua-kai-wawk

Directed by Bhandit Rittakol

The Magnificent Five is a 2006 action comedy where a group of mismatched heroes band together to rescue children sold into slavery. They learn to work together and laugh and love and all that other crap, all while shooting bad guys. Set in the distant past, Magnificent Five incorporates a Swashbuckling style that seems inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean films while being completely different in plot development and characters.

It is sort of interesting to see the character of Captain Johnson, as he is a totally evil colonial trader dude. It is not that far out of bounds, he could be just the same as the evil British and East India Tea Company characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean films, if one were to ignore the history of Thailand and colonialism in South Eastern Asia. As you may or may not know, Thailand was the only country in the area that was never colonized, but the colonies surrounding it were played off of each other by Thai rulers. Thus, unlike films from places such as Indonesia, there is not a whole ton of films where patriotic nationals fight off oppressive colonial forces against long odds. So is Captain Johnson an evil symbol of colonial aggression, or just a handy stereotype to make a bad guy out of? You make the call!

Like many Thai films, the exact translations and spellings of character names is a jumbled mess. So I will be going with a set translation of everyone’s name, but also listing the alternative names for each of the characters. Maybe one day I will bother to learn enough Thai that I will have a set translation scheme preference, but my crippling laziness will probably prevent that from ever happening.

Suer (Jesdaporn Pholdee) – A Thai cool tough guy and legendary warrior, but he’s also a lazy drunk. He’s the best fighter in all of Thailand, thanks to his grand strategy of just walking up to people and shooting them. Jesdaporn Pholdee was voted the Sexiest Man in Thailand in 2003 and has roles in the Iron Ladies films as well as Queens of Langkasuka. His name is sometimes subtitled as Seua. (Nickname: Tiger)
Raka (Paula Taylor) – A whipmaster and tough girl who helps rescue the kids and has some bitter vengeance on her mind. Paula Taylor is a Thai/British model/actress/game show constestant who is also a big name in the Philippines. Her name is sometimes subtitled as Rakaa. (Nickname: Chicken)
Mahah Thong Suk (Note Chern-Yim) – A monk who fled his village after standing up to some rude colonials who can’t stand the fact a non-white guy talked to them. Whatever he warns against comes true. Eventually joins the crew to rescue the kids. His name is sometimes subtitled as Phra. (Nickname: Monk)
Sum Lee (Koti Arambawy) – The bomb-crazy kid and thief partner of Raka who gets very angry at monkeys. His name is sometimes subtitled as Dek. (Nickname: Kid)
Worg (Sarawut Mardthong) – A guy who sells medical herbs, until he’s dragged into the mess with escaped thieves and kidnapped children. Has special herbs that will turn you gay. His name is sometimes subtitled as Wawk. (Nickname: Monkey)
Captain Johnson (Damian Mavis) – A White guy so he’s evil. Okay, he’s evil because he’s selling children into slavery and it looks like he molests little girls as well.
Master Kajorn (???) – A Slave Trader who runs mines that are worked exclusively by slaves, along with owning lots of lands that anyone who passes by must give him tribute.

A monk named Mahah Thong Suk beats up some white jerks (with a broom despite them being armed with guns) and soon the jerks call the authorities, because this is back in the day during the colonial period. The Monk flees because that’s better than colonial prison.

In a village, we see a quack medicine man by the name of Worg, and a thief team (male and female – Sum Lee and Raka) where Sum Lee fires fireworks to distract the town as Raka steals. The townsfolk then get their pitchforks, and Worg gets caught up being chased along with the thieves. What is odd is on my copy, they blur out a pistol as Raka points it to the head of the medicine guy. I have heard that happens on Thai TV sometimes, but it is weird to see it on a DVD. Maybe this is imported from somewhere.

The three fugitives also run into the Monk, and after a brief period pretending to be another monk the four get chased together by angry villagers. It is a bonding experience.

A dude named Phu is owed a lot of money by a lot of peasants, who have sent some of their kids to work off some of the debt as servants. Phu then sells the kids to a white colonial trader named Captain Johnson, and the village panics. They go “What the Phu?” They don’t have enough money to pay off Phu. They are totally Phued. So they will try to hire someone, they know there is a Suer the Tiger who is tough, but on the way to hire him they run across the four fugitives.

The four fugitives claim to be Suer the Tiger when they see the money (the Monk will help for free, though.) They go back to the village, but the real Suer the Tiger was asleep nearby and overhears. Phu knows the village will do something and sends men to help guard Johnson. Fun times as they break for the night and Raka immediately whips off her clothes for a dip in the river (you don’t see nothing, but the lack of shame perturbs the other three.) This is the kind of chick you want in your posse.

Overnight, Worg tries to steal the money, but ends up getting KOed by Suer and tied to a tree. The money is stolen by Suer and food is also gone, but finding a doll’s leg dropped by one of the kids reenergizes their commitment to find the kids. In a search for food, Sum Lee ends up fighting with a monkey over bananas, while a tiger with gas chases Maha and Worg up a tree. Sum Lee soon joins them, while Raka loses a fish to a crocodile. It is just not a good day to find food in the jungle.

They head to a nearby village and run into Suer the Tiger at a restaurant with their money, but the argument is cut short when soldiers arrive who are looking for criminals. They decide to drug the soldiers’ food with some of Worg’s drugs, but as all he has are love potions he adds drugs that will make the soldiers gay. The soldiers want to drink with everyone, including all the men, and soon everyone is gayer than a pride parade in San Francisco. Then they all start slapping each other. I don’t know. Sum Lee manages to blow up the place and they all escape, the men puking up the drugs.

That was a pretty weird aside.

The four fight over the money with Suer, but after he sleeps and then gets hungry again he agrees to join the team. He manages to annoy them by singing all night while he is on watch. By the next morning, he is asleep and the party cannot continue. He won’t wake despite being thrown into a lake, so they have to drag him along across the Siam boarder.

As soon as they cross, they are attacked by thieves on vines. It must be hard times for Tarzan! They come together as a team to shoot a few of the thieves, so hooray for teamwork. The slave caravan has reached a place where there are lots of dudes being whipped, it is Master Kajorn’s mine. Master Kajorn looks like an evil slavedriver, because he is an evil slavedriver. Funny how that works. Captain Johnson’s caravan is passing through, but Master Kajorn demands big tolls if you aren’t his buddy. He is buddies with Captain Johnson, so he gets through, but that means the Magnificent Five are out of luck unless they devise a plan. Master Kajorn’s men tear apart the soldiers from earlier in the film. The Magnificent Five’s brilliant plan involves them just wandering into the mine, asking for passage, and having Raka taken as a slave. What kind of dumb plan…. I hope there is a part two to the plan, or we’re just gonna watch Raka get raped!

Master Kajorn smells her armpits and gets enraged! It’s raise your hand if you’re sure! The rest of the men are gonna rape her, but then the rest of the Magnificent Five rescues her, and Sum Lee finds lots of new bombs! After they escape, Raka is still angry she got taken so easily, but the film doesn’t dwell on that at all and by the next day they are back to normal. Obviously the screenwriter has never fought with a woman ever if he thinks they won’t be bringing that up every day.

The Johnson caravan is at the shore, and the kids are about to be floated out to the merchant ship. The kids try to escape just as the Magnificent Five arrive, and Suer just walks into the camp and starts shooting. Does the Magnificent Five know they are supposed to come up with plans so they don’t die? Suer’s action takes the rest of the team by surprise as well, but they quickly join in. A few of the Thai servants on the slave caravan switch sides to try to help the kids as well. That also means we can get some deaths on the good guy side without losing a main character. Smart.

Flashbacks tell us that Captain Johnson tried to molest Raka when she was a young girl. Captain Johnson has done everything evil except eat a puppy. Hopefully the M5 kill him before he chomps on poor Wishbone! Considering some of the heroes know nothing about fighting, they last quite a long time, and both Suer and Raka are injured on the arm (Suer by a sword cut, Raka is shot by Johnson.)

The fight continues, but as the crew tries to make a getaway to the ship, Captain Johnson is captured by whip and the release of the children is forced by gunpoint. Captain Johnson get back to the merchant vessel, but the vessel has cannons that soon is blasting at the beach.

Everyone scatters. Mahah is injured saving a kid, while Sum Lee fires back with rockets he made out of the explosives he got from the mine. The merchant ship sails off, having been defeated by a crazy kid’s explosive fireworks show.

As the Magnificent Five prepare to head back, Raka says she doesn’t want to go where she already has been, so she doesn’t join them. It is just an excuse, as Raka instead returns to the mine, for she is going to kill everyone and free all the slaves. But then the rest of the team shows up to help her fight. Sum Lee and the rescued kids sneak around as the other four just walk out in the open. I see their plans haven’t evolved much. They just start shooting, and some slaves get the idea and revolt as well.

Mahah and Worg both get shot, but they aren’t dead, and Sum Lee sends a cart filled with flaming explosives rolling through the mine camp. Hey, someone saw Predator despite living a hundred years before it was filmed! Master Kajorn ends up getting hung at the end of Raka’s whip, evil is dead, good wins, and everyone goes home.

There is also no sign of all those other slaves that were rescued, so….um….okay.

The end!

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Magnificent Five is supposed to be an action comedy and it does not have any pretenses of being anything else. For what it is, it works, even if the action sequences seemed somewhat weak. I would have preferred that the plans to save the day were a bit more intricate than just walking into the middle of somewhere with a gun shooting, that will just get you killed in real life. But regardless, there are certainly many less enjoyable Thai films out there.

Rated 5/10 (kidnapped, distraught, smoky goodbye, bodyguard 1, bodyguard 2)

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Written by Tars Tarkas

Tars Tarkas

Runs this joint!