Lost in Thailand (2012)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2015-09-12
In a quest narrative the protagonist advance spiritually and mentally as he moves through time and space over great distances, forced to overcome obstacles and perils along the way and to answer enigmatic questions in order to stay on the correct path. While moving physically he matures emotionally and begins to see the world and his place in it in a more profound and discriminating fashion. Things that had been essential to his life before the quest become insignificant and fall away while what he had rejected as unimportant is now understood as the real core of his existence, his reason for being.

Xu Lang and Gao Bo are partners in a scientific research start-up in Beijing; Xu is the scientist Gao the dealmaker. They have developed a too good to be true product, Supergas that increases the volume of gasoline by fifty percent while (apparently) retaining its molecular structure and its ability to produce energy. So if you have ten gallons of gasoline in the tank of your car a couple of drops of Supergas increases it to fifteen. Xu wants to keep working on the product with funding from venture capitalists while Gao has already made a deal with a French firm to buy or license Supergas. Both have become alienated from the rest of the world and emotionally crippled, interested only in winning control of the miracle additive. In order to do so each must get the consent of the third partner, Zhou, the majority shareholder.

Zhou is somewhere in Thailand meditating and praying at a Buddhist temple. This doesn’t narrow things down very much since there are many thousand temples in the Land of Smiles. Xu has a hacker trying to track down Zhou through the location of his wireless phone and is on his way to the airport to fly to Bangkok. Gao is even more sneaky—he has place a tracking device in Xu’s phone and will simply follow him. The only flight left that day is a charter full of tour groups. Seated next to Xu is Wang Bao a bumpkin who sells spring onion pancakes and who has saved for years for his dream vacation. He claims he is engaged to Fan Bingbing and has a picture of her cut from a magazine to prove it.

Wang Bao is a problematic character for me. He is a clown who always makes bad decisions and causes injury and anguish to everyone around him—in this case it is Xu to whom he attaches himself like a leech. It is easy to lose patience with characters like Wang Bao since a little of his stupidity, clumsiness and constant loutish behavior goes a long way. Kudos to Wang Bao-Qiang for keeping him just this side of being too wretched to watch.

There is a lot of slapstick once they get to Thailand including encounters with a Russian mobster and his ladyboy escorts and a hotel room massage mix-up with Wang Bao almost killing the client when he has to act as the masseuse. There is a well done extended scene in Chiang Mai when Xu thinks he has finally found the temple where Mr. Zhou is meditating. He stumbles into a bunch of Thai and Chinese gangsters, led by a criminal named Zhou, in the process of closing a deal for a roomful of artifacts looted from Thai sanctuaries. Gao stumbles into the melee at the worst time possible and there is plenty of machete swinging, artifact throwing and running—lots and lots of running. Our heroes eventually find the wat where Mr. Zhou had been but the power of attorney he has left for them forces them to work together to further develop and market Supergas.

Zhou and his power of attorney is the putative object of the quest—the Golden Fleece, the Holy Grail or the head of the Gorgon Medusa in post-modern, enrich yourself China. It is a McGuffin, the motivating force of the narrative that directs the action of the main characters and which is forgotten about as soon as it is found—or not found at all. What Xu and Gao find is the enduring power of connubial and paternal love and the importance of friendship while Wang Bao completes everything on his bucket list.

The three male leads do well. Huang Bo’s Gao is a strutting, officious, self-important jerk, Xu Zheng’s Xu is a driven scientist, unaware of the emotional chaos he is causing in those he loves the most and as I mentioned Wang Bao-Qiang makes his irksome yokel tolerable enough to keep watching. Female supporting actors don’t have a lot to do but they do what they can. Fan Bingbing plays herself. Xu Zheng was a true auteur. He wrote, directed and produced “Lost in
Thailand” as well as starring in it.
Reviewer Score: 7