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January 10, 2008

Mercury Man

mercury_man_poster.jpg

Ma Noot Lhek Lai
Bandit Thongdee - 2006
Bonzai Media Corporation All Region DVD

While I never had the opportunity to meet him, I did exchange emails with Curtis, the Bangkok based film critic who writes for the English language Thai newspaper "The Nation". Curtis also has his own blog, Wise Kwai's Thai Film Journal, much improved from when it was hosted at Rotten Tomatoes. If you haven't checked it out, I recommend clicking back to Curtis' first posts on his new site. I probably should have checked his site myself before I lost a few dollars getting Mercury Man, but this one one of the many Thai films I couldn't see in Thailand simply because the available DVD version lacked English subtitles.

Mercury Man represents in several ways a deliberate, but misguided attempt by Thai filmmakers to break into the international market. As it turned out, even the Thai audience was underwhelmed by this film which attempts to graft a superhero story with Muay Thai boxing. What is of interest is that the political aspects of the Mercury Man narrative goes into a direction that most American filmmakers would be nervous to follow. This is a post 9/11 superhero movie with terrorist bad guys after a sacred Sun amulet and Moon amulet that if combined will enable them to destroy the United States. What may make the film more troubling to a non-Thai audience is that the story is also one of Buddhists versus Muslims.

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Putting this into some kind of context may be tricky. Even though most Thais are Buddhists, it is not a state religion. Still the Muslim versus Buddhists plot is questionable considering that there is a sizable Muslim minority primarily in southern Thailand. Those more familiar with Buddhism will recognize that the Buddhism displayed in Mercury Man is both generic and exotic, the with the kind of sage advice uttered by Sam Jaffe in Lost Horizon. This world view is somewhat more comprehensible based on the point of view of most Thais which is that the world is divided between ethnic Thais and everyone else.

Even a homegrown superhero movie with Muay Thai Boxing is less interesting than it should have been. Produced by Prachya Pinkaew, the boxing and the wire work are extraordinarily ordinary from the team behind such martial arts fests as Ong-Bak and Dynamite Warriors. In the title role, Wasan Khantaau is pallid next to that gravity defying force of nature that is Tony Jaa. With his Spiderman inspired costume, Wasan gets hot and kicks ass, and is a nice guy out of costume, but lacks the inspiration or sense of humor of the best superheros. Seen way to briefly as a supervillainess is Matinee Kingpoyom. After it is discovered that Wasan became Mercury Man after being stabbed with the Sun amulet that was absorbed into his body, Matinee stabs herself with the Moon amulet. She becomes Mercury Man's unnamed nemesis, freezing cold to his fiery heat. If this character had a name, would it be Ice Girl? Frigid Woman? In any event, I was reminded that I saw this very beautiful woman in another film that had was otherwise not very good, Bullet Wives. And speaking of beauty and boxing, the real Beautiful Boxer, Parinya Charoenphon, is in the cast, aptly named as the character named Grace.

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Posted by peter at January 10, 2008 12:25 AM

Comments

Thanks, Peter, for the shout out. I had forgotten this was released on DVD outside Thailand. It's the kind of movie I wouldn't mind seeing it again, but not if I had to pay to do so.

Posted by: Curtis at January 10, 2008 02:43 AM