NAK PROK [IN THE SHADOW OF THE NAGA | นาคปรก]

www.nakprok.com

THAILAND 2010  Directed by: Pawat Panangkasiri  Written by: Koses Charittiporn, Nut Nualpang, Pawat Panangkasiri Produced by: Prachya Pinkaew, Bhandit Thongdee, Sukanya Vongsthapat  Cinematography: Teerawat Rujintham  Editing: Tawat Siripong  Music: Narinthon Na Bangchang  Cast: Intira Jaroenpura, Somchai Kemglad, Ray MacDonald, Pitisak Yaowananon

Shelved for three years (hence its real year of production is 2008) NAK PROK finally makes it into Thai cinemas and the headline news as the most discussed movie of 2010 so far. So what’s the fuzz all about?

Three criminals disguise as Monks and stay in a Buddhist temple to find the money they’ve robbed and buried somewhere on the temple ground. The yellow robes buy them some time to search for the stash while they are also safe from the police who are intensively looking for the trio. Very soon however they begin to run out of luck and patience: conflicts emerge, their cover may be exposed too soon and the money is nowhere to be seen. The search for the cash turns into a quest for right and wrong and some serious soul-searching.

Without any doubt are Buddhist-related topics in Thailand a hot potato, and a crime thriller set entirely in a temple with criminals posing as monks is kind of guarantee that every Buddhist organization in the country will call for banning the movie once and for all. Much has been said and written about NAK PROK, and many people and groups have spent a lot of time protesting against its showing. The fear the movie could taint the image of Buddhism has fumed a heated debate over NAK PROK. Funny though, Thai people have no problem enjoying THE DA VINCI CODE and the likes. Who cares about Catholicism, right?

But let’s face it: NAK PROK is just a cops-and-robbers story, set in a temple and with bad guys temporarily hiding among the monks. Neither are they really ordained, nor do they ever claim being Buddhists or practicing Buddhism. The difference between the world of the monks and the world of the criminals is always obvious, and it is huge. As mentioned before the idea of criminals disguising as monks is nothing but a set piece, a more or less clever trick to create conflict and drive the story. There is simply no intention whatsoever to discuss about religion, and that is why the critics are wrong about NAK PROK: its subject is not Buddhism, its subject is three thieves and their quest for the loot.

Does the film taint the image of Buddhism? Nope. Not the image, and not the religion. But real monks who drink and gamble do, as shown in newspapers and on TV all the time. Does the film even attempt to make a negative statement about Buddhism? Nope. Quite the opposite: Buddhism offers the criminals a chance to better themselves and find a new direction for their life, maybe even find forgiveness, and certainly offers them an opportunity to reconsider their values and morale. Buddhism is good and the bad guys are, well, bad. NAK PROK sums it up in one dialogue line that essentially says that it’s not religion that gets corrupted, it’s the people who do. So we all have to make our choices, but a religion can never be tainted by man ­– let alone movies ­– as it is a superior concept.

Let’s brush any further discussion on whether NAK PROK is touching on sensitive issues aside (let the press and lobbyists go on ranting) and let’s have a look at NAK PROK for what it is: entertainment. Bottom line is that NAK PROK by no means deserves wasting our time with fundamental discussions, simply because it’s a very average thriller with zero relevance for art, society or religion.

It is not all that bad though, but it has a pretty shitty script with enormous loopholes, sketchy direction and most of the time awful cinematography and lighting. The cast is good and the story is not uninteresting, but with so many illogical plot twists and very unbelievable character development as well as a crude ending that doesn’t make sense at all, NAK PROK suffers from so many shortcomings that it can’t be taken too seriously.

NAK PROK clearly lacks substance: it’s o.k. to watch it on a Sunday afternoon, but I cannot believe that anyone would bother watching it ever again. Down the road NAK PROK will be forgotten; if lucky it will be remembered for the discussion, but hardly for its artistic value. I have seen some fairly good reviews of the movie, but I honestly cannot understand what on earth is really noticeable about it. NAK PROK trails far behind the crème de la crème of Thai cinema.

Last time I checked, art imitates life and not the other way round. NAK PROK imitates life, but not too brilliantly. So life should be safe from any bad influence this work of average entertainment could possibly have.

J.



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2 Responses to “NAK PROK [IN THE SHADOW OF THE NAGA | นาคปรก]”

  1. PAD THAI: NAK PROK a.k.a. THE SHADOW OF NAGA « GONIN MOVIE BLOG Says:

    […] FULL REVIEW AVAILABLE HERE. Already (or finally) launched in Thai cinemas in March is NAK PROK, a story about three thieves […]

  2. 9 WAT a.k.a. SECRET SUNDAY [9 วัด] « GONIN MOVIE BLOG Says:

    […] THAI: SECRET SUNDAY [9 WAT | 9 วัด]WHO ARE YOU? [KRAI…NAI HONG] STARTS IN THAI CINEMASNAK PROK [IN THE SHADOW OF THE NAGA | นาคปรก]A movie horror to work. The movie old […]

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