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Ong Bak 3 (องค์บาก 3) by Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai (2010)

Honestly I had thought I could watch Tony Jaa in anything, his martial arts are so much fun to watch, but this film is so pretentious and trying to be epic that it really falls completely flat, and has more flaws than good points. Sure it looks great, and the fighting, at least what their is of it is pretty fun to watch, but it is everything in between and it’s use of tricks and convolutions to the plot that are completely useless that makes this a total yawn. I love watching Tony Jaa, but this is pretty much a stinker, and I am glad it was for free on HDNET. And not only that, but to change the villain really lowers the film.

This film starts just as the last film ends with Tien (Tony Jaa) having been captured by Lord Rajasena (Sarunyu Wongkrajang). Tien is beaten, and almost manages to escape, but is overpowered by superior numbers and his elbows and knees snap and he is held as a trophy. Some rebels try to free him, but fail when Bhuti Sangka (Dan Chupong) comes and kills them. Lord Rajasena tries to hire him, but Bhuti refuses and says he will come to him begging to remove the curse that is driving him crazy. Rajasena orders Tien to be killed, but one of the kings men arrives and pardons him and takes his broken body to be healed at Kana Khone village. Rajasena of course sends out assassins to kill Tien, but he is losing it and even kills some of his closest advisors.

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Bangkok Dangerous by The Pang Brothers (2008)

Normally I am not a fan of remakes, and most of the time think they should not be made (like the possible OLD BOY and HARVEY remakes that are in the works), but this one I was actually impressed with. First off it it is the Pang’s themselves who are remaking their own film, now as a Hollywood action film, with a lot more money, and big name star (Nicholas Cage and Charlie Yeung, even if she is playing deaf and mute, but that does solve her not speaking Thai). And since the original was their first film, it was made on a shoestring budget, and here, not only does it look better, but it has some much bigger action set pieces. Not only that, but they were able to improve on the story a bit, making the whole thing more a tale of the Assassin’s redemption. Here he is not mute, the pharmacy girl is, and he wants to move on from his life, and starts to make connections with the world, of course he must still pay for his actions, but the film has more heart here, even if the Pharmacy story does get a bit sidelined, but overall the more streamlined story serves the film better. I also like the addition of some of his skills being taught, like always using reflections to look behind you. Very Cool! I greatly enjoyed the film, and think it is well worth checking out.

Nicholas Cage is a hitman named Joe, who lives by 3 rules, which keeps him out of contact of not only anyone alive, but his clients, and keeps him a rich man, and at the top of his game. In Europe he makes a kill, and has decided to take a 4 part job in Bangkok, and then retire. He overdoses his local fixer with heroin, severing any ties with him, and disappears to Bangkok, where he is going to work for the local ganglord Surat (Nirattisai Kajareuk), but he works to keep his identity always secret. Quickly he spots a local pickpocket named Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm), who decides to make his local fixer, the one who will pick up his assignments and keep a layer between him and Surat. Kong goes to get Sarat’s assignments from a beautiful hostess named Aom (Panward Hemmanee) who works at an upscale club. He takes a liking to her right away, and wants to prove himself, buying her jewelry and the like.

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Bangkok Dangerous เพชรฆาตเงียบ อันตราย by the Pang Brothers (1999)

I can’t believe it has taken me this long to see this film, as I have seen many other of the Pang Brother’s films, especially their Hong Kong films, and I always found them at the very least to be very stylish, if usually lacking it too much story. And this film does have style. It makes up for it’s low production value with some impressive editing techniques, and it shows that these brother’s had talent, and they have improved with their budgets (I am currently looking forward to Storm Warriors, just because I love the Storm Riders, the original film, and the Soap Operas, even though I hear it is not too good). Sure some of it drags on a bit, and the stories could have been improved, but it is still quite enjoyable. A very impressive first film!

Kong (Pawalit Mongkolpisit) is a fead and dumb assassin, and is very good at his job. He gets his jobs from a bar hostess named Aom (Patharawarin Timkul) who is the ex of his best friend Jo (Pisek Intrakanchit). Jo is the assassin who trained Kong, but can no longer shoot himself since he got a bullet through his right hand. We learn that Kong used to be taunted as a child because of his deafness, and he started working cleaning up at a gun range. He showed impressive skills, mainly because he did not flinch from the sound of the gun, and Jo and Aom saw him, and had him shoot, and Jo took him under his wing, and trained him to be an assassin. Kong goes to Hong Kong on a hit, and when he returns he has a cold, so he goes to a pharmacy, where he begins to fall for a beautiful pharmacist who helps him named Fon (Premsinee Ratanasopha).

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Ong Bak 2 by Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai (2008)

I had been looking forward to this film since seeing the first Ong Bak, though was a bit scared by the production history of the film (Jaa’s much publicized break up with former director Prachya Pinkaew and then Jaa just disapearing from the set of his own film for months). Still I was quite surprised and pleased to see the film released in HD on HDNET before coming out on video, because it got to see it looking excellent and sooner than I thought I would. Once again the story is not important, though here it might be a little overcomplicated, but it is the fighting that matters, and this film has that in spades. A spiritual prequel to the first film, this is about some of the original Thai warriors who fought with elephants, so it is period, and quite enjoyable. You will want to watch the action again and again. A must see for fall all martial arts action fans. I can’t wait to see more from Jaa (I have heard Ong Bak 3 is in the works) and Thai action films in general which seem to have really taken over the mantle that Hong Kong has mostly (though not completely) dropped.

In the 1400’s in Thailand during a period of great feudal unrest, we see Tien (who will grow up to be Tony Jaa) the son of a high official being chased by men bent on killing him, and only through the sacrifice of the warrior protecting him, does Tien escape death. Of course things are not that easy, and Tien is picked up by a slave trader, and taken to a slave market. When he pisses off the slave trader, he is thrown into a water filled pit with a crocodile. Just at that point a band of guerilla warriorsc alled Pha Beek Krut led by Cher Nung (Sorapong Chatree) attack the slave market. Cher Nung sees something in young Tien and gives him a knife, with which he able to kill the crocodile, and ends up joining Cher Nung as his new protege, being groomed to replace the leader.

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Brave by Thanapon Maliwan and Afdlin Shauki (2007)

Balls to the wall Thai action, reminiscent of the best of 1980’s and 1990’s Hong Kong action, just non stop from start to finish, and well worth checking out. Sure the story isn’t too deep, and their isn’t a huge amount of character build up, and Michael B. is not as skilled as Tony Jaa, but that doesn’t matter, because this movie delivers with some constant and fun as hell action and is well worth checking out. The only problem is that the dvd I picked up is not anamorphic (though the box says it is) and the subtitles are so low that I had to leave it centered on my TV so I could read the subtitles, but it was still worth seeing. The film has a fun blend of comedy and action, and the action is worth seeing the whole film for. I hope a better English release of this film comes out.

The stuntman Pairote “Michael B.” Boongerd plays Bee, who in the opening we see taking directions from someone on a phone, to go into a skyscraper, and break in, fighting everyone on his way (even the beautiful receptionists know martial arts). Bee calls in a huge bunch of orders, pizza and the like, to cover his escape. Eventually he gets into the office and grabs the executive Lita (Supaksorn Chaimongkol) who is married to the owner and copies all the bank records onto a rubber USB flash drive he is wearing as a wrist band,and then manages to escape. It is a setup, he is doing it to save his step brother (Malaysian comedian Afdlin Shauki), who is tied to some explosives down by the docks. He leaves the USB drive, which the bad guys crush, and just manages to escape with his step brother. We learn that the brothers wife was killed by some gangsters and Bee took revenger, and ended up in Prison, but it seems that they are not done with him, and Kovit (Sahaschai Chumrum) now wants revenge for his revenge.

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Chocolate by Prachya Pinkaew (2008)

Pinkaew’s latest Thai actioner, and his first since his much publicized break with Tony Jaa is still good clean fun. Reminds me of the height of 1990’s Hong Kong action focusing on a girl this time. And even though Jeeja Yanin (Yanin Vismitandana) cannot come close to Tony Jaa in martial arts skills, it is still fun as hell to see a girl kicking this much ass. Sure once again the story is barely believable, but really we are here to see the action, and this is action if good clean fun. Thailand has really taken over the action crown from Hong Kong, and I am perfectly happy with that occurrence if they are going to make fun films like this.

A Japanese Yakuza in Thailand named Masahi (Hiroshi Abe) falls for a high level Thai gangster named Zin (Ammara Sirpong). The Thai boss No. 8 (Pongpat Wachirabunjong) doesn’t like it though and forces the couple to break up, with Masahi returning to Japan and Zin retiring and raising their child on her own. She learns that their child Zen is autistic, and will require special care. Zen is emotionally and mentally stunted, but physically she is a genius, able to memorize complex physical maneuvers, and martial arts, and having lighting fast reflexes, so she memorizes the martial arts she watches, like those of Tony Jaa (and obviously Bruce Lee since she makes his sounds when she fights). Zen grows (Yanin Vismitiandana) and her childhood friend Moom (Taphon Phopwandee) realizes it, and uses her skills as a street performer to make money, though it gets them in trouble when roughians come after them and Zen must fight. Zin meanwhile is very sick, having cancer, and they need money to pay for her hospital bills. Moom finds a book which shows people that owe money to Zin and he goes with Zen to go and collect the money, thinking it is from friends and not from gangsters.

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Last Life in the Universe by Pen Ek Ratanaruang (2003)

I saw this film because it was shot by my favorite cinematographer, the drunk and amazing Christopher Doyle, and it is certainly an interesting film, but very strange. Especially with 2 characters who can barely communicate, and an ending that gives clues, but does not give away much of anything. I think I may have gotten it, but I am not really sure. A stranger than strange film, and at a languid pace, with moments of insanity, I didn’t really know if what I was seeing was real or fake. I can’t honestly say that I really get it, or can even recommend it because it is just too out there. I am glad I saw it, but damn it was weird.

Kenji (Tadanobu Asano) is a lonely Japanese librarian living in Thailand, with a mysterious past, and dreams of suicide. His brother (Yutaka Matsushige) is a low level Yakuza, who made the mistake of sleeping with his bosses daughter. Kenji leaves a strange and lonely life, organizing his books, and leading a sterile existence. One day Kenji sees a beautiful Thai girl in a schoolgirl outfit named Nid (Laila Boonyasak), but he does talk to her in time, and she is gone. Kenji’s brother come to his place to hang out with his drinking buddy (Riki Takeuchi), but the buddy is there to kill him, and does kill the brother, but Kenji then kills him and then cleans up and leaves his place. He goes out to commit suicide on a bridge and that is just when Nid drives by with her sister Noi (Sinitta Boonyasak) and kicks Nid out because she slept with Nid’s boyfriend, but Nid sees Kenji and pauses in the rose and is hit and killed by a car.

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Dynamite Warrior ฅนไฟบิน™ by Chalerm Wongpim (2006)

This is an over the top wire fu action spectacular, with lead, Dan Chupong warting a hat reminiscent of Indiana Jones, and it really makes me yearn for the good old days in Hong Kong when they too used to make ridiculous action spectaculars like this. Unfortunately those days are over, but luckily it seems Thailand is taking up the slack, because this film is about as fun as can be, over the top ridiculous fun, and a must see for all kung fu fans.

Dan Chupong plays Jone Bang Fai “The Fireball Bandit” a Robin Hood in 1890’s Siam who uses giant fireworks, and his martial arts to attack cattle traders and theives and takes their buffalo and gives them to poor villages, and never kills anyone. He is legendary, but really he is searching for the cattle thief with a dragon tattoo on his chest who killed his parents. Meanwhile an evil local nobleman Lord Waeng (Phutiphong Sriwat) is selling mechanical tractors, and since they are not selling well, he helps a convict called The Thief (Somdet Kaewleu) whose sole motivation seems to be eating, and who carries 2 huge buffalo harnesses as weapons, to go around and steal all the water buffalo so he can sell them to a slaughter house and sell his tractors. The Thief ends up fighting a cattle trader with supernatural martial arts powers and a dragon tattoo named Nai Hoi Sing (Samart Payakaroon). This gets Jone Bang Fai’s attention and he believes Sing is his parent’s killer.

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Tom Yum Goong by Prachya Pinkaew (2005)

I was sold after seeing Ong Bak I was sold on this team of Tony Jaa and Prachya Pinkaew, and this film just cemented it more. Once again I hear complaints about the story, well it isn’t a bad story, it is just a simple story. Ong Bak was about a man going to get his stolen Buddha. In this film a man is going to find his stolen elephants. As simple as that, and a great set up for some incredible action scenes. I mean this film really has to be seen to be believed. The capoiera fight is unbelievable. This is a must see!!

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Born to Fight by Panna Rittikrai (2004)

I checked this out because it is produced by Prachya Pinkaew who directed Ong Bak, so I expected a light story and amazing action, and i wasn’t at all disapointed. Sure the story is ridiculous, and just a means to have a war of fight scenes with athletes and gymnasts and thai boxers against evil men with machine guns, and even the bad guy who used drugs to win shows up here. If you enjoyed Ong Bak or just like old school over the top action where you can’t believe anyone did these stunts then this is an absolute must see.

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Ong Bak by Prachya Pinkaew (2003)

I have been hearing nothing but bad things about this movie, that the story was awful, and that it only had good action. Well I am pleased to report that this is wrong. Sure it isn’t a complicated story, but the story is good enough, and better than many recent American action films. And the action is fantastic and amazing. Tony Jaa is amazing to watch, in some instances instances putting Jackie Chan to shame at his own game, and hopefully his acting ability will improve over time.

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