Thailand 2009 Directed by: Thanapon Maliwan Script: Anuwat Kaewsopark, Thanapon Maliwan Production: Thanapon Maliwan, Russell Wong, Chokchai Ptchpunna Cinematography: Arnon Chunprasert Editing: Sombat Thepkumdee Music: Tuomas Kantelinen Cast: Mike B., Russell Wong, Intira Jaroenpura, Patharawarin Timkul, Erik Markus Schuetz, Winston Sefu, Lak-Khet Waslikachart
THE SANCTUARY is a typical epigone of the Tony Jaa era and tells the well-known story of lost ancient artifacts and the hunt for them. In view of the thin plot I didn’t exactly get goose bumps, but ONG BAK or CHOCOLATE weren’t blessed with much intellectual depth either. This is fan fodder where other qualities are the priority.
Interestingly enough: THE SANCTUARY turns out to be quite an O.K. martial arts film that scores above average (literally). Much has been done right here that has been screwed up with many other B-movies of this kind. The INDIANA JONES story however contributes very little to the fact that THE SANCTUARY became a small surprise.
So what is it? First and foremost the better cast: Russell Wong delivers another good performance as charismatic gangster, Mike B. handles his dialogues well (albeit not as well as his fights), his love interest is likeable and avoids that common hooker-look, and the farang are cast clearly better than this is usually the case. Altogether they are simply the slightly better actors, slightly more credible, have somewhat more character.
Also some of the fights are executed pretty well; all in all the action looks unpretentious, much to the film’s benefit, but when all hell breaks loose, it really breaks loose. Martial arts fans may miss some extreme action or edgy highlights, but those who prefer a solid action movie with solid movie-like qualities should be happy with THE SANCTUARY. The cinematography helps making THE SANCTURY even more dynamic than it already is, while the sound-mix and some effects are pretty punchy and powerful; someone proved to pay attention to detail in all major departments.
Perhaps the words „compact“ or “tight” best describe the film: THE SANCTUARY uses space and time optimally for its standards, it wastes no resources, fits like a skinny jeans. Masterpieces look different, but throughout its 80+ minutes of slam-bang it doesn’t lower its guard a sec.
THE SANCTUARY appears to take its characters, the story and the dramaturgy seriously, despite all restrictions. THE SANCTUARY therefore is not simply another pretext for heaps of stunts, but a real film. That at least is a beginning.