Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bangkok Adrenaline

As armored vehicles break through the barricades, black smoke billows in the not too distant future and helicopters patrol overhead, a mournful feeling has dropped down upon the city. Things may be coming to a head here. It is all very sad that it has come to this and one has to wonder if this will turn out only to be the beginning of something much worse to come. Over the past few decades so many countries have been torn apart by civil war, but generally these conflicts have been caused by ethnic or religious differences – in Thailand it is a more old fashioned cause – a class divide between the elite and the poor. The disparity of wealth here is enormous. By setting up their headquarters in the center of the glitzy malls, the Red Shirts seemed to be making a point – we may not have the money to shop here but we can take it by force if we have to.

Anyway, in an attempt to get back to the focus of this Blog, here is a quick review of an interesting if not particularly well-made hybrid Thai film called Bangkok Adrenaline.

Bangkok Adrenaline
Director: Raimund Huber
Year: 2009
Duration: 85 minutes

Produced and written by a group of Farangs (i.e. Westerners), the film hops on the Parkour/action film bandwagon with some fine action set pieces that zip around Bangkok with a sense of fun and flair. Unfortunately, the script is a mess and the story is at times nearly incoherent. When the film isn’t flying, it is dead in its tracks with not nearly enough action to make up for its failings. First time director, Huber, shows his inexperience with numerous pointless scenes, extraneous shots that come to nothing and a pace that falls into lulls that seem to have no purpose other than adding to the running time. It also perhaps makes the mistake of adopting a lot of broad slapstick Thai like humor that didn’t feel even mildly funny to me.

Now to be fair, the DVD that I watched had the four foreigners badly dubbed into Thai and the subtitles may have made the film more confusing than it really is. According to Wise Kwai, the original soundtrack was in English but when it was released into Thai theaters only a Thai dubbed version was shown. A DVD in the UK has the original soundtrack, but the one I ended up with was purchased in Chinatown in NY and may be of questionable legitimacy.

As best as I could understand, four foreigners (Daniel O’Neill, Conan Stevens, Raimund Huber and Gwlon Jacob Miles) live in Bangkok and are doing their best to make ends meet by either theft, go-go dancing or fighting. But it’s not enough and one night they end up in a gambling den where they make the mistake of winning too often. The Thai boss doesn’t take kindly to this and threatens their lives unless they help him with a job – kidnap the lovely daughter (Praya Suandokmal) of a wealthy crooked businessman. They successfully do this but collecting the money is a different matter as the father has an unending number of martial arts minions to send after the quartet.

The revelation of the film is actor Daniel O’Neill, who has been doing stunt work for nearly a decade appearing in films such as Gen X Cops 2, Naked Weapon, Twins Effect, Tom Yum Goong and The Bodyguard 2 – but here he is front and center of the action set pieces with a dazzling array of Parkour and martial arts skills. In particular there are two lengthy chases through the streets, alleyways and roof tops of Bangkok that seem to be highly influenced by the Tony Jaa chase in the first Ong Bak. O’Neill’s moves are equal to Jaa’s though he doesn’t show nearly the power that Jaa has. It is impossible to evaluate his acting skills in this dubbed version but he clearly has the looks to become a leading action actor.

My rating for this film: 5.0

PS – it sounds like it may be over for now in Bangkok. The Red Shirt leaders appear to be calling a halt to their protest. Where it goes from now will be seen, but at least this may be thankfully coming to end without a last horrendous spasm of violence.


Glenn, kenixfan said...

Glad you are doing okay there. Is civil war a real possibility there? The news reports are quite alarming.

Brian said...

I may have been a bit optimistic that this is over - apparently fires are breaking out all over, some gunfights were taking place a few blocks from here, everything is closed tighter than a drum and I think a curfew has been imposed. So it may take a few days for this to clear up. Fortunately I have some bread and cheese in the fridge! Civil war is a remote possibility I think but you never know and nothing has been settled with all this.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... maybe it's time to take that taxi out of the city and hop on a bus to Penang.

Don't make us worry about you!

Brian said...

Well I just came back from a walk this morning and things seem to be returning to normal - traffic is moving, mangos being sliced and sold by food vendors, the usual beggars have regained their familiar spot on the sidewalk, the military presence has lessened and a few bars have opened up to sustain the farang alcoholics. By tomorrow everything will be fine. For a while.

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