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March 21, 2013

Bangkok Revenge

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Jean-Marc Mineo - 2011
Well Go USA Entertainment Region 1 DVD

The title evokes images of Muay Thai fighting, and there's some to be found here. That said, this film reminded in some ways of the kind of Hollywood B movies produced in the Fifties, particularly in some of the smart ass dialogue mostly found in the latter half. An example is when the son, Manit, out to revenge the death of his parents, is kidnapped by a gang, and driven to some desolate location. Told that this is the place where he will die, Manit asks to go somewhere nicer. One of the several fights scenes taking place in a confined space, Manit beats the shit out what he calls "the most tasteless gang in Bangkok". OK. Maybe you have to watch the movie to really enjoy the humor.

The debut feature by Jean-Marc Mineo, French actor turned writer-director, Bangkok Revenge is better written than directed. The textbook on how to film action scenes in small spaces is to be found in the first Transporter film. The reliance of quick shots and hyperkinetic editing doesn't work as well, although it is still better than what passes for action in some big budget Hollywood films. One of the better ideas was to film an early fight as giant shadows against a wall. Still, the film's strong suit is the exchange of low brow sarcasm.

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Manit is the son of a policeman who was investigating police corruption. As a young boy, he witnesses the murder of his parents, and is himself almost killed. Surviving a bullet to the head, Manit is taken to a small village to heal. The wound leaves him feeling no physical pain or sense of emotion, but doesn't get in the way of learning martial arts or fluent English. The dialogue alternates between Thai and sometimes heavily accented English, so full subtitles help. A running gag regards people asking how Manit speaks fluent English, with his response being, "If I told you, you wouldn't believe me."

Like a lot of classic crime movies, Mineo shoots on the streets of Bangkok, capturing the the congestion of people and traffic. No soi (alley) is too dark, no location too decrepit. The artist cover of one of the villains made me think of Sam Fuller's films with evil disguised by wealth and social position. Adding to the mix of corrupt cops is a female gang, The Hyenas, with one nasty little kick boxing girl, and one obvious ladyboy.

The British Jon Foo may not make the world forget Bruce Lee or Tony Jaa, but he's a good looking guy, and as English is his native language, that is certainly an advantage to the international market. The best known supporting players are two French actors, Caroline Ducey, the lead in Catherine Breillat's Romance, and Michael Cohen, best known for Shall We Kiss?. Veteran Thai actor Winai Kraibutr, who appeared as King Naresuan in the recently reviewed Muay Thai Warrior, briefly is seen as Minat's father.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at March 21, 2013 08:00 AM