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June 11, 2008

The Tiger Blade

tiger blade 1.jpg

Seua Khaap Daap
Theeratorn Siriphunvaraporn - 2005
BCI Region 1 DVD

Throughout the DVD supplement in The Tiger Blade, there is talk about making a Thai film for the "international market". And while The Tiger Blade is a pretty good film on its own terms, it does reveal a misunderstanding of what the presumed audience outside of Thailand might be looking for if anyone bothers to see a Thai film. What Ong-bak has demonstrated most clearly is that the best hope for a theatrical run and commercial viability is in films that have lots of Muay Thai boxing and embrace their sense of being Thai. A good test case will the U.S. release of Chocolate, directed by Ong-bak's Prachya Pinkaew, about an autistic woman, skilled in martial arts.

The production team for The Tiger Blade must have spent hours watching anything that had the name of Jerry Bruckheimer or Joel Silver in the credits, plus every John Woo film from A Better Tomorrow through Face/Off. And considering that the budget was a fraction of a similar Hollywood production, the results are pretty spectacular. At its best The Tiger Blade is enjoyable purely on a visceral level with one action set piece following another. For me, the best parts of The Tiger Blade were those elements that I would associate with the sheer nuttiness that is somehow unique to Thai movies.

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The operative word here is "sanook", Thai for "have fun". The film begins with the hero, Yos, interrupted while in bed with a young lady, engaged in a gun battle while wearing nothing but bath towel. Chasing one of the bad guys out to the street, Yos drops his towel to get a good shot. Yos follows one of the bad guy's cars with a steam shovel, eventually upending the bad guy's car. Even better are the scenes with the female cop, Dao, pursuing bad girl Jenjila. In a chase that ends up at a large department store, Dao picks up a skateboard to keep up with the roller skating Jenjila. Of course there is also the obligatory Muay Thai boxing scene with the two women exchanging kicks and punches. When it comes to commercial Thai films, there is nothing as fun as watching Thai martial arts between two equally skilled opponents, especially when they happen to be two hot Thai babes.

And that's the other reason to see The Tiger Blade. There are two scenes with guys opening the door to their respective bedrooms only to find several young hotties gathered on their beds. Additionally, there are the girls that populate the discos. There is so much eye candy that the point seems less about making a commercially viable Thai film than to sell the fantasy image of Thailand. Even the title object turns out to be a MacGuffin, lost in the storm of bullets and boxing. There is also a plot involving criminals and a rebel leader from one of Thailand's neighbors, robbing money to finance a revolution. None of the gravitas gets in the way of the action, not that it matters when you see actress Srungsuda Lawanprasert bursting out of a department store window or running down the side of five storey building.

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Posted by peter at June 11, 2008 12:08 AM

Comments

What a blast. I'm so happy you enjoyed this.

Tiger Blade came out in Thailand the same year as Tom Yum Goong. Guess which one made my top 5? Where is my elephant? Sorry, Tony.

At some point I aim to pick up the Region 1 version of this. I have the Thai release, which ended up being censored, with pixellation over things like guns pointing at people's heads - so like half the film is pixellated out.

Posted by: wisekwai at June 12, 2008 03:03 PM

I haven't seen a lot of Thai films, my experience is fairly limited to Ong-Bak and a few festival dramas, but I did rent this at some point and wow, fantastic action from the very beginning, I love that opening fight sequence in the towel, but I couldn't wrap my head around the story. Still, I there was enough stuff to enjoy that I had a great time with it!

Posted by: Marina at June 18, 2008 06:18 PM