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May 18, 2010

The Sanctuary

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Thanapon Maliwan - 2009
First Look Studios Region 1 DVD

I can't argue about the fighting skills of Mike B., formerly Piroj Boongerd. The guy could probably hold his own against peers Tony Jaa and Dan Chupong. Mike B., in fact, had been a stunt performer in Ong-Bak and has also served as action director on a handful of films. What Mike B. lacks is the kind of onscreen charisma that make Tony and Dan fun to watch even when they're not doing back flips or kicking someone in the face. And if Mike B. can be considered some kind of martial arts star, he is to Tony Jaa what Gerard Butler is to Russell Crowe.

The Sanctuary is the type of film that might find its true calling on late night cable television. No cliche has been left behind. The basic premise is that a group of high tech thieves are after a Thai national treasure, with some double crossing in the favor of the highest bidder. Mike B. plays Krit, a dealer in fake antiques, who discovers that his uncle has been involved with the crooks. It also turns out that one of the bad guys killed Krit's twin brother. In one scene, the injured Krit is nursed back to health by a Buddhist monk who uses what is described as a very rare herb. While with the pretty archaeologist, Praifa, Krit is shot and the two fall down in a wooded area where there is a cave, and by golly, the rare herb is in the cave, allowing Praifa to cure Krit. Krit and Praifa manage to run into the bad guys on the road not once, but twice. There is also the one bad guy who knows which tree to jump from, to ambush Krit. And as the closing credits roll, there is the suggestion that the chief bad guy may not be dead after all. As it turned out, just days before I was going to post this review came this news from Cannes. And If that's not enough, Krit also has this jewel which has holographic images of Muay Thai boxing when held in the light, just the right way.

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The real stars of The Sanctuary are Russell Wong as chief bad guy, Patrick, and Patharawarin Timkul, as the lethal Selina. Armed with knives, guns, and grenades, you know that Selina is a very bad girl because she's a chic dresser, and has too much lipstick. Intira Jaroenpura, best known for playing the title role in Nonzee Nimibutr's Nang-Nak, is the young archaeologist. One of the other signifiers of Thai cinema is that the good girls don't wear much make-up, and dress in practical blue jeans. Praifa mostly is confined to supporting Krit in the pursuit of the stolen vases, but does have a moment to show off her own boxing skills against Selina. In the one moment of the film that makes total sense, Krit is fighting the bad guy Gary, Praifa is taking on Selina, so after observing the scene, Patrick cooly picks up the goods and the loot and walks away.

The couple of trailers with the DVD indicate that First Look has also hopped on the Asian martial arts movie bandwagon. The trailer for Mike B.s previous film, Brave, also directed by Thanapon Maliwan, looks kind of fun. The Sanctuary was originally filmed in both Thai and English, depending on who was doing the talking. For some unknown reason, First Look has the film available in a completely English dubbed version. The only way one can enjoy seeing Thai actors speak Thai, and follow what they are saying, is by watching the film with subtitles designed for the hearing impaired. To not have the option of having subtitles during the Thai language portions of The Sanctuary was a dumb decision on the part of First Look. Fortunately, the subtitles don't interfere with the pleasure of watching the villainous expressions of Russell Wong and Patharawarin Timkul.

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Posted by peter at May 18, 2010 12:09 AM


I always enjoy watching May Patharawarin. She chews the scenery with gusto.

The Thai DVD of The Sanctuary is one of the few to be released with English subs. So there's another option.

Mike B. actually makes a better villain than a lead actor. I recently gave Fighting Beat another view (also on English-subbed DVD from Thailand), and Mike B. pretty well steals the scenes he was in with the young hero who looks more suited to singing in a boyband than Thai boxing.

Posted by: wisekwai at May 18, 2010 09:59 AM