“In the Shadow of the Naga” appears destined to be known as that Thai “monks-with-guns” movie, just as it’s sure to enrage stewards of religious tradition in Thailand. Fashioned closer in spirit and substance to a rough B-genre item than an art pic or festival title for export, helmer Phawat Panangkasiri’s actioner pits a trio of thieves against the precepts of a Buddhist temple where their stolen stash is hidden, with sometimes risible results. Cautionary opening title note that characters sometimes veer from Buddhist principles won’t be enough to avert controversy, which in turn will stoke local demand.
Gun-happy robbers Parn (Somchai Khemklad), Singh (Ray MacDonald) and Por (Pitisak Yaowananon) head to a temple outside of Bangkok where bank robbery proceeds (meant to pay for Parn’s blind mom’s treatments) had previously been buried. Now, the stash is under a new building, forcing the short-tempered guys to stay on and try to fit in as ordained monks, or some facsimile. An elder monk (Saad Peampongsanta) helps out, but the premise wears thin over the course of the film’s overacted and unevenly paced 90 minutes-plus.