Posts Tagged ‘Prachya Pinkaew’

ELEPHANT WHITE

2011/03/30

http://www.nuimage.net/

USA 2011  Directed by: Prachya Pinkaew  Written by: Kevin Bernhardt  Produced by: Frank DeMartini, Peter Safran, Daniel Bernhardt, Tom Waller, Avi Lerner  Cinematography by: Wade Muller  Editing by: David Richardson  Music by: Robert Folk  Cast: Kevin Bacon, Djimon Hounsou, Jirantanin Pitakporntrakul, Ron Smoorenburg, Abhijati Jusakul, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Byron Gibson, Creighton Mark Johnson, Weeraprawat Wongpuapan, Suteerush Channukool

I am not sure if the phrase “highly anticipated” applies to Prachya Pinkaew’s US debut. First of all, it’s not a phrase I’d use as I have never been fond of his sketchy direction in the first place – frankly speaking, most of his movies are only watchable because of some fine action scenes and outstanding martial arts display; as movies, however, they are generally sub-standard. Secondly, when has the US debut of an Asian director ever been a revelation? Right. Last but not least, when has a US B-movie that is shot more or less entirely in Asia ever been any good? Well.

So everything points towards a disaster, not even taking into consideration that Mr. Pinkaew now has to work with real actors, not stuntmen, something like a real script (featuring real English dialogue) and cater to an international audience that expects more than a niche Muay Thai show. But as positive thinking is a virtue I have tried to look forward to ELEPHANT WHITE, primarily thanks to the unspoken promise of another memorable performance by Kevin Bacon, and possibly Djimon Hounsou. Now how did that all turn out?

Let’s begin with the screenplay: ELEPHANT WHITE is a solid action drama (or so it seems at first) about an assassin who is hired by a Thai businessman to avenge the murder of his daughter by slave traders, injecting some initially welcome touch of exoticism and mysticism along with authentic locations and local flair to boost the film’s sweaty atmosphere. As long as all that contributes to the story, place or character development that’s fine with me. Thing is, the script quickly ups the ante and deviates from the actual story, indulging in kitsch and melodrama instead, focusing more on triggering all sorts of emotions than on a believable storyline (even though the final twist is meant to render much of what happens in the movie a “mystery” (which by then however is completely revealed and explained).

Add to that a relationship between the main characters that remains largely incomprehensible and is defined through some seriously clumsy dialogue and action scenes that never make sense. The script relies on an intangible past, and it eventually all comes down to Curtie Church in need of weapons and Jimmy The Brit supplying them, for reasons only Mr. Bernhardt knows.

While revealing no huge immediately detectable formal issues (other than Mr. Pinkaews previous films, which suggests that the American team has significantly contributed to the film’s hygienic factors and taken Mr. Pinkaews work to a hitherto unknown, albeit not exactly high level) ELEPHANT WHITE however has astonished me with a so far rarely seen repetition of largely identical chapters: again and again Church gets himself new weapons from Jimmy, assassinates the bad guys, works on his “relationship” with Mae, needs more and different weapons, and it all starts all over again.

ELEPHANT WHITE is not unentertaining, has some good moments and features some serious shootouts and other action sequences, but what exactly is its point? I’ve been digging a lot, but there is simply no story here, unless you count Church’s relationship with Mae and its implications as a somewhat relevant “love story”. Apart from that we see an unfortunately disappointing performance from Mr. Bacon, who is speaking with a very fake and very exerted English accent while otherwise giving me the impression of being mentally absent throughout his scenes; a key idea and surprise ending that is by far less clever than it thinks it is; and a revenge plot that is thin as paper, or better, is nothing but an initial reason to send Church on his spiritual journey.

All things considered, ELEPHANT WHITE is basically a half-assed blend of ANGEL HEART, BANGKOK DANGEROUS, Hong Kong Action flicks and Thai martial arts. I am not sure what the mission was really, but it is safe to say it wasn’t accomplished. Also, Mr. Pinkaew doesn’t do his country a favor by replicating the same old clichés any foreign director would have gone for as far as Thailand is concerned, while on the other hand never developing a signature style or having any noticeable impact on the story or its visualization.

ELEPHANT WHITE is a mediocre action drama that could have been better but most certainly never ever really good no matter what – not with this sort of script, director and acting. When the dust has settled all that remains is a B-movie that will have a very hard time to find an audience.

J.


THE 4 MOVIE a.k.a. 4 PSYCHO [LUD 4 LUD a.k.a. LUD SEE LUD | หลุดสี่หลุด a.k.a. หลุด 4 หลุด]

2011/01/24

http://the4movie.com/

http://www.sahamongkolfilm.com/th/filmdetail.php?id=423

THAILAND 2010  Directed by: Ekkasith Thairatana, Chukiat Sakveerakul, Kongkiat Khomsiri, Phawit Panangkasiri Written by: Ekkasit Thairatana Produced by: Prachya Pinkaew Cast: Akarin Akaranitimetharat,  Alexander Rendel,  Chanon Rikulsurakann, Thanapon Arrunneth, Patrapisit Sappasawattichod, Alice Toy, ArttanunPiyaserth, Sirikarin Ployong, Janjira Chumneansiri, Ananda Everingham,  Peerapol Sehnakol, Thitti Vejchaboon, Pakorn Chatborirak,  Thema Kanchanapairin

If certain producers go on like this we will have more omnibus horror movies coming out of Thailand soon than feature films. Here we go again: LUD 4 LUD a.k.a. THE 4 MOVIE is one of the last productions to be finished end of last year and has just hit Thai cinemas in January.

The four segments are directed by writer and first-time director Ekkasith Thairatana, Chukiat Sakveerakul, Kongkiat Khomsiri and Phawit Panangkasiri. Mr. Thairatana’s segment is called CLEAN UP DAY (GRIAN LAANG LOK | เกรียน ล้าง โลก) and is merely an appetizer. The story revolves around a group of guys debating global warming and its causes, leading to the core of the story that identifies humans as the root of all evil and reveals a plot to kill all humans through a lethal virus.

The second film is the sarcastic THE GIFT SHOP FOR THE ONES YOU HATE (RAN KONG KWAN PEUA KON TEE KUN GLIAT | ร้าน ของขวัญ เพื่อ คน ที่ คุณ เกลียด) directed by Kongkiat Khomsiri (SLICE). A white-collar office worker is promoted to be the new manager of his department, but not everyone seems to be delighted. Soon he receives questionable gifts, all obviously sourced from a mysterious shop around the corner of his office called The Gift Shop For The Ones You Hate. Nomen nest omen.

The third entry is directed by Phawit Panangkasiri and called EERIE NIGHTS (KEUN JIT LUT | คืน จิต หลุด): a group of criminals is on the run and hides from the police in an abandoned hospital. There, things get quickly out of hand (literally) with the criminals beginning to fight and a ghost starting to haunt them.

The final episode then is a ghost comedy called HOO AA GONG (ฮู อา กง), telling the story about a Thai-Chinese family that has to watch over the body of the deceased grandfather. The family members feel awkward about the task, and so does the spirit of the grandfather who prefers to be rather active than lying dead in his bed.

Different from other horror anthologies in recent years LUD 4 LUD is mostly straight forward with only a little hint of Buddhist subtexts (as in EERIE NIGHTS) or references to the widespread belief in ghosts a.k.a. spirits. LUD 4 LUD isn’t really much of a horror movie, but mostly plays with our expectations towards the genre while in fact mostly not dealing with any supernatural ingredients at all: only the 4th segment is about real ghosts, while the segments 1-3 are trying to trick the protagonists as well as the audience into believing that something otherworldly is going on, which however is not. Since the last installment is a comedy I am not sure if I shall call THE 4 MOVIE a horror anthology at all.

Out of all entries THE GIFT SHOP FOR THE ONES YOU HATE is clearly the most original, creative and entertaining movie of the pack, leaving the others trailing behind. The first film starts interesting but turns out a lame duck, unsuccessfully trying to blend into the oh-so fashionable environmental debate, while formally kind of copying James Wan’s camera-moves-up-and-down-and-in-and-out-of-a-parking-lot set piece from DEATH SENTENCE. The conclusion then is totally random and renders the rest of the film meaningless.

Mr. Khomsiri’s movie stands out through its inventive idea, good script and proper execution, making it feel like a short feature film rather than a long short and delivering proper dramaturgy and character / story development while finding the right balance between paranoia film and horror-thriller, while embedding his scenario into a context that is very familiar to all of us. It could all happen to you, and that’s why this segment is the most terrifying after all.

The third segment feels too much like an adaptation of NAK PROK (THE SHADOW OF THE NAGA) and disappoints through predictable twists. However, it also features a great Ananda Everingham who looks like he just left the set of RED EAGLE (INSEE DAENG) and some uncomfortable gore (the only real on-screen violence of the quartet that has contributed to the film’s 18+ rating). EERIE NIGHTS is a one-man-show without ghosts, but has a touch of karmic lecture that makes it probably the most meaningful story here.

Lastly, LUD 4 LUD’s only real ghost story makes for a really funny finale, albeit for a stupid-funny one. Don’t expect anything remotely intelligent, HOO AA GONG is just for laughs and as tasteless as it gets, throwing in a big bouquet of masturbation scenes, gay jokes and corpse slapstick. Most of the humor works quite well however, and the ending is the most satisfying one of all films.

LUD 4 LUD is pure entertainment, free of the complexity or intellectual qualities of some of the other omnibus or contemporary horror films from Thailand. If your only concern is having a good time, then there is nothing to worry about.

J.


 

 

BANGKOK KNOCKOUT a.k.a. B.K.O.: BANGKOK KNOCKOUT [KOHT SOO KOHT SOH | KOTE SU KOTE SO | โคตรสู้ โคตรโส]

2010/12/22

http://www.sahamongkolfilm.com/th/filmdetail.php?id=418

http://www.facebook.com/bangkokknockout

http://www.bangkokknockout.com/

THAILAND 2010  Directed by: Panna Rittikrai, Morakot Kaewthanee  Produced by: Prachya Pinkaew, Panna Rittikrai Cast: Kietisak Udomnak, Pimchanok Leuwisetpaibul, Sorapong Chatree, Supaksorn Chaimongkol, Kazu Patrick Tang, Sorapang Chatree

ROUND 1: I am aware that nobody cares about the plot of BKO: BANGKOK KNOCKOUT (those who would are most certainly not interested in the movie in the first place), so I will not spend too much time complaining about it.

A group of stuntmen is participating in a casting tournament for a Hollywood movie. They win, but are captured and instead of going to the States they have to compete against unknown enemies in a rundown real estate compound, while some rich people are betting on them, making – or losing – a fortune.

Of course the plot is stolen (only the plot holes are genuine), but to be fair the story also provides one of the more solid frameworks we’ve seen in movies like this. Just don’t ask questions, don’t expect logic.

ROUND 2: the film mostly features stuntmen from the teams who did some of the Thai action flicks we all know, so it makes sense that the story is drafted around a stunt team. It is clearly one of the smarter moves not to try to turn them into something they are not – as a result, BANGKOK KNOCKOUT feels relatively authentic and honest, and would have come close to the stunt film format I have proposed many times if, well if, they just had eliminated any kind of story for good. Never mind.

ROUND 3: You should think that six years after BORN TO FIGHT it’s about time to change the recipe, but innovation is absent around BANGKOK KNOCKOUT. I cannot see the motivation to do something new or anything that seriously outguns all the earlier Jaa / Rittikrai / Pinkaew movies (despite the director’s claims). By and large BANGKOK KNOCKOUT is more of the same, a pretty solid action fest following the well-known success formula. BKO is fun, fast and features some outstanding stunts and notable set pieces, but it must also be mentioned that the movie bears no surprises.

ROUND 4: Talking about the action I am a bit disappointed. It’s not that it lacks the wow factor, but I didn’t really feel excited about the choreography, nor did I feel the impact, no matter how tough the fights really were (or seemed). Maybe that also had to do with the fact that certain tricks are being used too frequently or have become too obvious, like wires, speeding up of images or armor worn under the clothes. I am not sure what was the intention behind the scene when one of the enemies takes off his shirt and reveals the exact same steel armor that makes many of these raw stunts possible (if you ever wondered how come they can kick and jump into each others stomachs like that, now you know), but it is also no secret that Mr. Rittikrai once again uses “dust” and water excessively to make the blows look better (Hong Kong did that already decades ago, by the way). So maybe there was no intention whatsoever.

ROUND 5: Saying BANGKOK KNOCKOUT is a good movie is like believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or Barack Obama bringing about change. Technically speaking, the film is a disaster. Many things are executed so badly, you almost feel like watching a Making Of. Abandoned housing projects are being prepped as restaurants, the lighting is so bad that you can see when it comes from a spotlight, weapons are obviously fake (like the big axe that looks like a 20 g toy), editing and directing are not even close to editing and directing, and let’s better not discuss the dialogue or acting (but hey, thanks for the bearable farang villain). The mentality is a bit like “that’s good enough for the audience”: BANGKOK KNOCKOUT misses attention to detail, perfection, even professionalism, but if that insults you, or is just another “who cares” on the very long who-cares-list, is something everyone has to judge for her- or himself.

ROUND 6: with BANGKOK KNOCKOUT, the target audience gets exactly what they want, a no-holds-barred fight movie featuring an array of breakneck, sometimes awesome stunts. If you are into this kind of entertainment you cannot not like this one – BANGKOK KNOCKOUT is must-see action for any die-hard fan. As nobody has promised us a great movie, or any surprises, it’s not surprising however that BANGKOK KNOCKOUT is not a great movie, and not surprising.

Despite BANGKOK KNOCKOUT kicking ass like crazy, it is also a copy-and-paste job, a hardboiled mashup of what’s been done before. It features enough borderline insane action to entertain from beginning to end, but in the future someone will have to rethink action made in Thailand as it all starts to feel like a TV show in its 50th season.

J.