A smash-hit in Vietnam upon its release this past December – where it outgrossed Star Wars: Rogue One in its opening weekend – the Vietnamese-Canadian-American-Swedish-Japanese-Korean co-production Saigon Bodyguards is an unambitious throwback to buddy cop comedies of the ’80s and ’90s with little originality or deviation. It’s moderately fun in its best moments, if that’s what you’re in the mood for. Otherwise, Saigon Bodyguards is what it is, and that’s sadly not very much.

Trinh (Kim Ly, also one of the film’s producers) and Vien (Thai Hoa) are partners working for an elite bodyguard firm. Trinh is the dashingly handsome professional, and Vien is the uncouth horndog with moments of brilliance and cunning peppered throughout his usual screw-ups. Their latest assignment: protect Henry, the heir to a billion dollar dairy company (Be Tran) in town to inherit his late father’s company. The dairy heir also happens to be the boyfriend of Vien’s little sister (Chi Pu). When their wealthy charge is kidnapped, the bodyguards not only have to get him back to save their jobs, but also have to pretend like the high-profile Henry is still around to avoid a media circus. To this end, they enlist a dimwitted, uninitiated look-alike (also played by Be Tran) to act as a stand-in.

The word that best describes the tone of Saigon Bodyguards is awkward. It’s a film steeped in Vietnamese culture that has clearly been written with American sensibilities and directed with Japanese sensibilities by filmmaker Ken Ochiai. It seems custom made to drum up interest in a North American remake (I can almost see Dwayne Johnson and Chris Pratt in it), but it still needs a lot of work to seem like a novel idea. At the same time, it has been made to appeal to audiences in South Asia who want to see their actors in star vehicles similar to their North American counterparts. It’s an uneasy mix, and definitely one lacking in overall ambition, but most of the time it works.

Some very uncomfortable, thankfully brief sexist and homophobic gags aside, Saigon Bodyguards works most as a screwball caper comedy and less as an action movie, although there are a handful of neat set-pieces, especially the kidnapping and ensuing chase that sets the plot in motion, and a fight involving Vien and a bunch of drowsy bad guys that just ingested a batch of drugged sangria. Whenever Ochiai and screenwriter Michael Thai stick to being funny, the film doesn’t impress anyone familiar with genre conventions, but it has an easygoing charm. Every time they attempt to be serious or sentimental, however, the film slows to a crawl.

Outside of a bunch of endearingly surreal comedic beats – including asking a cow to speak at a funeral, a botched press conference where the imposter Henry tries to sound smart, and numerous references to Rick Astley and Donna Summer that come out of nowhere – the main attraction here is the chemistry between the restrained Ly and the offbeat Hoa. They know exactly what they signed up for with Saigon Bodyguards, and they look like they’re having a blast doing it. That energy is infectious enough to almost make Saigon Bodyguards work, but not quite enough,