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February 28, 2013

Muay Thai Warrior

muay thai warrior 1.jpg

Samurai Ayothaya
Nopporn Watin - 2010
Well Go USA Entertainment Region 1 DVD

Hopefully the generic English language title given to this film won't be too big an obstacle. Yes, there is Muay Thai fighting, and even a few elephants, but you won't find Tony Jaa here, nor is the film from the same studio. While there is a fair share of boxing and sword fighting, Muay Thai Warrior is more of a historical action film, similar to such Thai films as Chatrichalerm Yukol's series of films about King Naresuan, or Tanit Jitnukul's two Bang Rajan films. Nopporn's film can also be viewed as something of a compliment to Prince Chatri's films with King Naresuan here in a small, but vital role.

The film is inspired by the life of Yamada Nagamasa. The factual aspects of the film seem to begin and end there, with the story being no more historically accurate than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. No matter. It seems that a group of Japanese are out to create disorder in Siam, disguised as the hated Hongsawadee, people of present day Myanmar. A member of a voluntary group of mercenaries sworn to protect King Naresuan, Yamada is almost killed uncovering the identity of the Japanese. Rescued, and taken to a small village, Yamada learns Muay Thai boxing, and eventually becomes a member of King Naresuan's personal army.

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For western audiences, the main points of interest will be the martial arts. Yamada attempts to show off his samurai skills once he's recovered from his wounds, only to be immediately knocked out. The village's resident Buddhist monk, Phra Khru, teaches the Japanese Yamada Muay Thai boxing with the wish that Yamada combine the best of his skills from both countries. The second half of the film has the action set pieces with Yamada fighting the Hongsawadee, and later, an army of masked Japanese ninja. Blood spurts, sprays and gushes throughout.

What struck me was how much Muay Thai Warrior is a Thai film for Thai audiences. Not that non-Thai could not find things to enjoy, but there is much emphasis on nationalist values of loyalty to King, country and Buddha. Some of the attitudes of characters are understood best within the cultural context of the film.

The Japanese actor, Seigi Ozeki, plays Yamada, doing some first person narration in Japanese, but also speaking Thai. For those who know Thai cinema, the real star is Sorapong Chatree as the Buddhist monk. There might even be a law requiring Sarapong to star in at least one movie a year, preferably something historical, with big action scenes. The baddest of bad guys are bald, while the good guys have some very ornate hair styles.

This is a handsomely produced film. Nopporn loves to film people and buildings in silhouette. Statues of Buddha also figure prominently here. The martial arts scenes are filmed well enough to follow the action, without excessive editing or emphasis on slow motion. The most visually satisfying scenes are those of Thai culture, preparation of food, a dance performance, and a scene of Yamada relaxing, playing his flute with an elephant by his side.

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Posted by peter at February 28, 2013 08:15 AM

Comments

“Coffee coffee and more coffee: Muay Thai Warrior” was
a wonderful posting, cannot help but wait to look at a lot more of your postings.

Time to waste a little time on the net hehe. Thank you ,Cristine

Posted by: adrianart.com at March 10, 2013 10:04 AM