Directed by Yongyoot Thongkonthun starring Sahapap Virakamin, Jessadaporn Pholdee, Chaicharn Nimpoonsawas and Siridhana Hongsopon.
A box office smash in his native Thailand, ad director Yongyoot Thongkonthun took one of the more unusual stories in Thai – and indeed sporting – history as the subject of his debut feature film. The team which won the 1996 Thai national volleyball championships was a team with a difference. Well, lots of them. Made up of gays, transvestites, transsexuals and a straight captain, District 15 aka The Iron Ladies, took on all comers and won the nation's hearts with a mixture of sass, innocence and their talent for punching the air out of volleyballs.
Mon (Virakamin) and Jung (Nimpoonsawas) were great volleyball players in university but have struggled to get a game in the outside world because of their homosexuality. They're about to pack in their hometown and head for the bright lights of Bangkok when they hear that a woman, Coach Bee (Hongsopon), has taken over the local team and organised open trials for new players. Mon and Jung are picked for the new look District 15 but in protest all but one of the team resign, leaving Bee with just her two new recruits and the taciturn Chai (Pholdee).
Bee is about to scour the school leagues for replacements when Mon and Jung suggest that she take a look at their volleyball loving friends. She agrees and soon army sergeant Nong, showgirl/boy Pia and the firmly in the closet Wit sign up for the team. But while they win their first few matches, they're about to discover that the greatest battles lie off the court.
With such a gag filled premise, you could only expect plenty of bellylaughs but Thongkonthun's film performs way below its potential. With a plot as skimpy as Jung's shorts, 'The Iron Ladies' is an endless spiel of sports movies clichés ("20 seconds to go, can they get an extra point?") with some drama thrown in just to make sure you don't get RSI from watching the ball go back and forth over the net.
There are some great one liners ("I knew my son would become a great sportsman, even as a boy he loved pictures of men with big muscles") but all too often Thongkonthun recycles the same gags (broken nails, screams, group hugs) until you feel you're watching the same sketch on action replay. If he had spent a little more time focusing on the dynamics in the locker room (the friendship between Mon and the straight Chai is woefully tacked near the end) and a little less on the courtside antics, Thongkonthun could have made a thoughtful camp classic, instead he pouts where he should ponder and leaves you longing for the full time whistle.