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April 09, 2015

Vengeance of an Assassin

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Rew thalu rew
Panna Rittikrai - 3014
Well Go USA Entertainment Region 1 DVD

Panna Rittkrai begins his last film with a soccer game. Not just an ordinary soccer game, but one played indoors, in a warehouse, dusty, and with shelves of abandoned tools, and a sizable motorboat. And it's soccer combined with Muay Thai fighting so that players are giving and receiving roundhouse kicks. And if that's not enough, there are a couple of open grills knocked over so that the game continues on a floor of hot, flaming coal. It turns out that it's only a dream, but it is one of several memorable set pieces, reminders that when it came to filming martial arts, Panna Rittkai not only thought outside the box, but he smashed it to smithereens with his imaginative use of his athletic performers. The title roughly translates as "Faster than fast" which is appropriate for the action and camerawork seen here.

Panna's visual sense is also displayed in an extended tracking shot done roughly from the perspective of a hit man. The camera pans across patrons at a restaurant from underneath the table tops. We see the arm of a man circling around the waist of his female date, another man scratching his leg, and follow the legs of the unseen hit man as he shoots his intended victims. It's a nice bit giving some mystery to the proceedings.

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There is a story involving a young mechanic, Thee, who's curiosity about the death of his parents gets the best of him. His search brings him in contact with a man who claims that Thee's parents saved his life. The man is now part of some clandestine organization. Not that everything has been answered, but Thee decides to join this same organization, with contract killers nattily dressed in dark slacks and gray cardigans. Thee finds himself acting as protector to a young actress, the granddaughter of an influential politician, following a failed kidnapping attempt.

If you demand logic in your movies, don't even try to look for it here. Vengeance of an Assassin makes about as much sense as that soccer game inside an abandoned warehouse. On the other hand, if it's delirious kick assery you're seeking, look no further.

It's been eight years since Dynamite Warrior, and Dan Chupong doesn't look any older. He may not have the balletic grace of Tony Jaa, but he's still amazingly quick with his hands and feet. In a second warehouse scene, he fights off the bad guys with any available tool, throwing a license plate with enough force that it cuts into a guy's arm, while another man's face gets bloodied by an open electric fan. People, including Dan, get shot, cut and maimed, and it doesn't look pretty. If that's not enough, there's a face off with a female killer, the gorgeous Kessarin Ektawatkul, a former taekwondo champion, so yeah, your not just watching an attractive actress pretending to do martial arts moves.

And then there's a chase with a Range Rover loaded with some big guns, a helicopter, and a fast moving train with guys doing Muay Thai fighting on top. And an old Chinese doctor with some deadly kung fu. Want more? How about a chicken wing grabbed from someone's lunch, used as a lethal weapon?

Sadly, Panna died at the relatively young age of 53. It's too soon to know if any Thai filmmakers will even try to match or surpass the kind of nuttiness Panna was known for either as a director or as stunt coordinator. It is nice that for a filmmaker who helped bring greater attention to Thai cinema, he goes out with a very loud bang.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at April 9, 2015 06:09 AM