Clean Living faces off vs. Big-City Dangers in “Sagai United,” a likable but uneven yarn about an indigenous team that comes to Bangkok for a soccer championship. Simplistic script and climactic genuflection to Thai royalty will prevent scoring with adult auds offshore, but film’s youthful cast could make it a champion contender in fests with kid sidebars. Pic hit the top of the local B.O. ladder on first week of release in December.
Paotu (Ponpat Wachirabanjong), a disgraced soccer umpire who mixes gambling with gangsters, discovers a miraculous soccer team while hiding out in the southern Thai jungle. Playing barefoot and with idiosyncratic gymnastics, the Sagai tribesmen look like Paotu’s ticket to the big-time if he can coach them to win the King’s Cup of Thailand. However, Bangkok offers many distractions from this goal. While the yarn doesn’t sidestep issues like racism, drug abuse or sex, its game plan is predictable. Performances, particularly by those playing the Sagai, are more notable for their enthusiasm than professionalism. All tech credits are average for a Thai production.