Saturday, September 28, 2013

Review: Bangkok Assassins [Bangkok Kung Fu]

Starring: Arak Amornsupasiri, Mario Maurer, Athikit Pringprom, Visava Thaiyanont
Directed by: Yuthlert Sippapak
Language: Thai
Rating: R
Running Time: 104 minutes

When you don't have cable, what do you do you? Rent movies! Well, a lot of the movies I've been reviewing recently have been rentals from my local Blockbuster. Ah, I could feel the nostalgia every time I walk in. Anyway, I've never heard of this movie before, but it sounded and looked interesting.

Four boys are kidnapped from their homes and try to escape their abusive captors. During one attempt of rebellion, the boys are punished and have to deal with some disabilities that they have to live with for the rest of their lives. One day, their captors take the boys out and form a disabled kid band, but the boys make a mistake during their outing and talk to a stranger. When they return to their hideout, the captors scold and began to punish the boys for breaking the rule, until the stranger, a Shaolin Master, and a young girl show up before another severe punishment is executed. The Shaolin Master fights the captors and takes in the boys, teaching them the art of kung-fu. A few years later, the boys have grown into handsome young men and they face an unfortunate moment when their Master is killed.

Going into this movie, I had little expectations. I didn't know what direction it would go or how the conflict would be executed in such a repetitive genre. All in my mind was an entertainment quality of martial arts as opposed to a more stylistic martial arts like House of Flying Daggers or Curse of the Golden Flower, handsome young men, and revenge fueling the action.

The whole story was pretty typical. There are plenty of martial arts movies revolving around the motive of revenge, so the challenge is to make a typical motive different and entertaining. I think having the minor, minor issue of children being kidnapped kept it different. The boys having to deal with their physical and mental disabilities also kept things interesting. It forced the boys to reunite and use each other's sensory strengths to complete their goals: revenge on their captors and their Master's killer.

The main cast was entertaining to watch. They all had distinct personalities to keep things interesting and add development to each other, progressing the story. The supporting casts did their job successfully. Although, I did have a few issues with some characters. The supposed main villain was extremely weak. He felt out of place and brought the quality of the movie down. Perhaps if you watch the movie in English it would be a tiny bit more bearable, but the acting was too cheesy by the serious tone set in whatever the previous scene was. Their henchmen, the Monkeys, matched that cheesiness of laughable, stereotypical martial arts. I couldn't get over them flipping out of rooms all the time. The other set of bad guys, the captors, seemed more threatening even though they seemed a little bit unbelievable, but they fit the tone of the movie more. Lastly, I think the Master could've been more prominent to the audience, so his death could've impacted me more as opposed to only being sad about the matter because the characters are sad. Also I would like to add that the romance is minimal, a little silly or even childish, but doesn't detract from the main story.

The martial arts are more for entertainment than style. It's kinda over the top, sometimes ridiculous, and sometimes cool. There are some good fight scenes and there's some silly ones. Unfortunately, the final fight with the Master's killer falls in the silly category. It's a little underwhelming. But I feel that their revenge on their captors and even Pong's search for his mother was more important and compelling. Perhaps if the main villain presented more of a threat and maybe was Thai, it would have more urgency and sympathy toward the boys. Or if the captors were responsible for the Master's death, it would provide more satisfaction, motivation, and it would make more sense.

Bangkok Assassins was an entertaining movie with enjoyable and diverse main characters. It's unfortunate that the main villain and a couple fight scenes were a bit on the cheesy/cheap side. I think if you're looking for a simple and fun martial arts movie, I would give this movie a shot. I advise when you watch it, not to judge it too harshly or on the same level as movies like House of Flying Daggers.

Rating: 3.5/5

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