Saturday, September 06, 2008
Thai movie review: Chocolate
When Ong Bak came out, it was a breath of fresh air. At that time there were too many movies with wire work and non contact kung fu. Basically any actor could be in an action movie and look decent. It seems as though the old days of Jackie Chan doing his own stunts are gone. Tony Jaa showed the world that what Jacky used to do can be taken to the next level with his own brand of acrobatic Muay Tai. He did incredible stunts without wires and slow motion was used to show that the hits made contact. The succesor to Jacky Chan was here and it looked like action movies were entering a new era.
If you want to see badass Abe Hiroshi, this is the film for you..
Tom Yum Goon, the second movie was kinda disappointing but I won't bore you with the details. Suffice to say, the director tried to push the envelope without realising that less is more. Then I saw Bourne Ultimatum and my opinion of what action movies should be was changed. No more stupid 1 vs 100 fights. No more idiots running around asking to get hit. Bourne redefined action as a form of storytelling, not an acrobatic dance just to build up to bullet time/slow mo/fake climax. It showed that action in movies need not be spectacular but rather make sense and have the right mix of realism and danger.
Still, I looked forward to Chocolate. Yes, Abe Hiroshi is in it but but I really wanted to see what Jeeja Yanin, the main actress could do. First thing to note is of course, her blows don't look as powerful as Tony Jaa's nor is she as athletic. That's a given. At times, it felt like a toned down version of Ong Bak. Yes, enemies do run at her arms akimbo asking to be kicked in the face but the real reason to watch are the stunts. There's something gratifying about watching performers put their bodies in harms way for one's satisfaction. Sorta like how Mick Foley nearly destroyed his body during his wrestling career. The more injuries and risks a performer takes, the more inclined we are to cheer for him/her.
Yes, this movie is a glorified stunt-fest. I think the director learned his lesson from Tom Yum Goon and made the story facilitate the action scenes instead of drowning it out. Yes, the acting is bad but I've seen worse. Besides who judges an action film on acting? There are actually quite a few stunts in the movie which are super cringe worthy. A few stunts are too obviously wire stunts which was disappointing.
If there is one main complaint, its that she fights way too many henchmen. Its not as boring as the bone breaking sequence in Tom Yum Goon but some parts to get repetitive. There's less of a psychology to the action and its more a spot fest to borrow another wrestling term. In other words tons of enemies means lack of narrative in the fighting and more like how many different moves can one showcase? The only one on one battle was a spectacular fight with a capoera dude. I think villains in movies should limit their henchmen to single digits and make sure they can't be taken out in one blow.
I was worried about Abe Hiroshi's role and was afraid it would be a small cameo. Luckily he appears in the end and manages to kick ass. I've always wanted to see him do some action. (Sword of Alexander doesn't count) Abe playing Kill Bill and the vicious stunts are good enough for me to enjoy the movie though I have to say his English is horrible! The last action sequence is just so brutal. And the ending just makes me hope they do Chocolate 2 set in Japan. Just make sure to watch the credits!