3.24.2014

Chocolate

Prepare to get beaaaaat.
"Taste the fury."

Hi everyone, welcome to Thursday's Tagline. As I promised on Tuesday, today I'm taking us on a trip to distant Thailand, where violent martial arts movies are even more violent than elsewhere. The movie I'm interested in talking about today is Chocolate, released in 2008, and directed by Prachya Pinkaew, probably best known for directing Ong Bak: Muay Thai Warrior, a movie that lots of you are probably familiar with as it earned international fame and spawned a slew of sequels (though Pinkaew didn't direct those, in fact I think he only was involved as a producer on the first sequel). This movie was the springboard for the career of Yanin Vismitananda, who starred in a slew of successful Thai martial arts movies from 2008 to 2012, before taking a hiatus from movies after announcing that she was pregnant (as you can imagine being beaten up in a hand to hand sequence isn't great for unborn babies). Vismitananda herself was experienced in Taekwondo before becoming an action star, and consequently she does a lot of the stunts performed in the movie (all of them actually and I'll talk about that more a little later). Chocolate is sort of about a lady who is caught between a mobster and a really bad mobster, who then gets cancer. What it is really about is her daughter, Zen (that's Yanin) who is autistic. She lives with her mother next to a Muay Thai school, and is super amazing at mimicking things she sees, either there or on TV. Also, she has super mega-reflexes, so she falls into the typical movie category where having a neurodevelopmental disorder gives you superpowers like you're in the X-Men. I don't necessarily subscribe to, or encourage that kind of behavior or practice, but if it can be the avenue for brutal cinematic beatings in southeast Asia, then I'm willing to let it slide I guess.

Doesn't look like someone I wanna mess with.
So Zen's mom (whose name it's worth mentioning is fucking Zin) ends up having cancer, and needs chemotherapy that she can't afford. With the help of a boy that Zin took in named Moom, Zen tries to collect money owed to her mother by a variety of relatively unsavory types (remember that she exclusively consorted with mobsters it seems, and I guess she worked as a high interest money lender under her bad bad ex boyfriend who is only ever referred to as No. 8). While they try to collect money, things get ugly, but Zen uses her copycat martial arts skills to beat the ever loving shit out of everyone, like really in your face. Zen and Moom continue collecting money, and this course of debt collecting and ass kicking eventually brings them into contention with No. 8 himself, and all of his cronies naturally. No. 8 takes Moom hostage and this leads to a big showdown, which also involves Zen's Yakuza dad Masashi. Sounds like a pretty cool movie right?

You guys had your fucking chance.
YEAH IT DOES OBVIOUSLY. Having watched a lot of martial arts movies, of a wide variety, you begin to appreciate good choreography, as well as genuine martial artists, rather than just guys sort of muddling through. I'm not snobby about it, sometimes muddling through is just fine in a movie, but if the whole point of your film is pretty much people beatin' each other up from start to finish, with a skeletal plot to string violent encounters together, having quality choreography is kind of a must. You don't want to half ass the thing that will be forefront in everyone's mind and also field of vision. This movie generally speaking delivers on satisfying action sequences, and in a lot of ways reminded me of a lot of older Jackie Chan movies, only with sharper camera work. You need to understand that me comparing a martial arts movie to old Jackie Chan (well not super old but like older) is serious praise because I think Jackie Chan is fucking awesome. Honestly even the plot is above average for this kind of movie, and that was really pleasing and surprising as well. I like Ong Bak, but I honestly think that this film was a bit better.

Aaaand she's done, man she's fast!
Obviously as she is portraying the main character, Yanin Vismitananda has a large role to play in how good the movie is, and she did a really excellent job of being a compelling lead, and showcasing some impressive physicality as a martial arts lead. In particular over the credits they show a outtakes reel, and it is some pretty gruesome stuff (this again reminded me of a lot of Jackie Chan movies). Yanin did all her own stunts, and that resulted in a lot of pretty intense on set injuries, because some of the things that happen in this movie are pretty crazy (not like crouching tiger hidden dragon crazy or anything but still pretty serious). If you're into movies about people gettin' beat up then this movie is a must see, if you aren't well, use your best judgement I guess. If you want to check this movie out it's currently on Netflix, so that's probably an easy way for a lot of you to check it out.

That's all for today! I will be away pandering to the masses over the weekend, so Tuesday's post might be late depending on how much I can make myself care!

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