Vengeance of an Assassin (ตัวอย่าง เร็วทะลุเร็ว)

For F*** Magazine

VENGEANCE OF AN ASSASSIN  (ตัวอย่าง เร็วทะลุเร็ว) 

Director : Panna Rittikrai
Cast : Dan Chupong, Wat-Nantuwat Boonrupsup, May-Nisachon Tuamsoongnern, Nui-Kessarin Akethawatkul, Chatchapol Kulsiriwuttichat, Kovit Wattankul
Genre : Action
Run Time : 99 mins
Opens : 1 January 2015
Rating : M18 (Violence)

Vengeance is a dish best served cold – and apparently, with a heaping serving of Muay Thaimadness on the side. In this action flick, Nathee (Chupong) is driven by the most original of motivations: the search for the truth behind the death of his mother and father. Nathee and his younger brother Thann (Boonrupsup) work at an auto shop run by their uncle Norm (Ping Lampraplearng). Norm is intent on shielding his nephews from the tragic circumstances that led to their parents’ death, knowing danger will not be far behind should Nathee and Thann plan on enacting vengeance. Nathee goes about training himself in weapons skills and martial arts and takes on the assignment to be a bodyguard to Ploy (Tuamsoongnern), the young niece of an influential politician. He gets caught up in an assassination plot masterminded by criminal Chai (Kovit Wattankul) and Thann and Uncle Norm quickly become embroiled in this life-or-death situation, Nathee calling upon his various deadly skills to avenge the death of his parents.
            Vengeance of an Assassin is the final film from director Panna Rittikrai, who died shortly before the movie’s release. Rittikrai is a well-respected filmmaker and action choreographer who mentored Thai cinema’s biggest action star export, Tony Jaa. B-movie aficionados and dyed-in-the-wool fans of gloriously schlocky action flicks from the 70s and 80s won’t find anything of that sort coming out of Hollywood today – even direct-to-DVD movies are often dull and grim. It turns out that they need look no further than Thai action movies to get their fix – Vengeance of an Assassin is a cheese-fest that had this reviewer howling with laughter from start to finish. The movie begins smack dab in the middle of a combative soccer match that involves explosives and hot coals. This oddity of an action sequence has no bearing on the plot whatsoever and it seems it’s only included because director Rittikrai just thought it was that good of an idea. Later on, a character is impaled through the chest with a steel pipe, but survives because the pipe “missed his dangerous parts”.

            Let’s be honest, foreign action flicks are sometimes more exciting than Hollywood ones because there don’t seem to be as many union-mandated safety restrictions and because the stunt performers seem to actively embrace risking life and limb in the name of frivolous entertainment. Rittikrai’s regular posse of stuntmen well and truly live up to the name “Daredevil Stunt Team” and the production notes boast that they sustain “real injuries” in the name of delivering authentic fights and falls. Lead actor Diew-Choopong Changprung a.k.a. Dan Chupong started out as a member of this team and hit the big time after starring in Rittikrai’s 2004 Muay Thai movie Born To Fight. He’s skilled, intense and athletic and the biggest plus is that being his own stuntman, there’s no need to cut around the fight scenes to disguise a double. The boyishly charming Wat-Nantuwat Boonrupsup complements Chupong well and director Rittikrai waited until Boonrupsup turned 20 to give him a major supporting role.

            Unfortunately, because of how good the fighting, fireballs, bullet hits and other physical gags look onscreen, the hastily knocked-together CGI footage is all the more disappointing. Perhaps the poor visual effects work is part of the goofy charm associated with movies of this genre, but that doesn’t make it any less jarring when during a skirmish on the roof of a moving train, the actors are surrounded with fuzzy outlines because they weren’t properly composited into the background. A flatly unconvincing digital helicopter soon joins the chase. There’s also the matter of severe mood whiplash – there’s tomfoolery from the comic relief and straight-up executions literally within seconds of each other. Then there are the over-the-top histrionics, with people bawling as others die in their arms, set to maudlin piano music.

            Vengeance of an Assassin is impossible to take seriously but if you grew up on the low-budget 80s action movies of Cannon Films and similar studios, it is possible to enjoy. The characters in this film include a merciless, hilariously vampy femme fatale (Nui-Kessarin Akethawatkul) and an octogenarian RPG-firing Chinese doctor (Ooi Teik Huat). With the most threadbare of plots and as silly as its title is unwieldy, Vengeance of an Assassin is nonetheless a rather captivating brand of silly.

Summary: Director Panna Rittikrai’s swansong is dumb, ridiculous and unintentionally funny but packs in plenty of appeal for die-hard genre fans who long for some of the crazy, violent, bloody, balls-out action mainstream Hollywood releases seem to mostly lack.
RATING: 3 out of 5Stars

Jedd Jong 

The Teacher’s Diary

For F*** Magazine

THE TEACHER’S DIARY (คิดถึงวิทยา Khid Theung Wittaya)

Director : Nithiwat Tharathorn
Cast : Sukrit Wisetkaew, Chermarn Boonyasak, Sukollawat Kanaros
Genre : Romance, Thai
Opens: : 15 May 2014

Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met? Why yes, this reviewer is convinced he and Kate Beckinsale will someday find true happiness with each other. Okay, so that’s not what The Teacher’s Diary is about. In this Thai film, Song (Wisetkaew), a former competitive wrestler, becomes a teacher at the houseboat branch of Bann Gaeng Wittaya School. Located in a rural community, lacking running water and electricity and attended by just four students, this wasn’t quite what Mr. Song imagined when he signed up to teach. He discovers a diary belonging to Ms. Ann (Boonyasak), the teacher who preceded him, and after reading of her time with the students and of her personal struggles he quickly becomes enamoured with this woman without even knowing what she really looks like. He continues to earn the respect, trust and friendship of his young charges as he dreams of Ann, embarking on a quest to find her.

Director Nithiwat Tharatorn took inspiration from two unrelated true stories, one of a producer’s friend who had fallen in love with someone after reading the diary she had left behind in an office desk drawer (the two eventually did get to know each other and marry) and the other of a teacher in a houseboat school in Chiang Mai. This is an amalgamation of “inspirational teacher” tale and star-crossed romantic comedy drama, and it’s a mix that pays off. Sweet, moving and gently funny, The Teacher’s Diary has a very charming earnestness to it. Oddly enough though, there are a few bits reminiscent of horror movies, including a jump scare during a dream sequence, but these are done playfully and infrequently enough. It’s beautiful to look at too. Cinematographer Naruphol Chokanapitak serves up vistas of a remote idyll far from the maddening crowd, with lush greenery, mist-covered mountains and lots of pretty sunsets.

       Most romances tend to go like this: boy meets girl, boy and girl initially don’t like each other, then it grows into mutual toleration and later affection, there’s a misunderstanding, they break up but then get back together again and stay that way. Here’s a movie in which our male and female leads spend pretty much the entirety of the film apart, its unconventional structure having Song’s time at the school in 2012 unfold parallel to Ann’s in 2011. The alternating timelines are presented coherently and there’s a montage juxtaposing Song interacting with the kids with Ann doing the same, featuring some pretty slick, elegant transitions. The bonds that Song and Ann each form with the kids are given as much attention as the “someday” wishful romance, and one boy even gets an arc about how he plans to follow in the family fishing business and is therefore reluctant to continue school.

Sukrit Wisetkaew, known by his nickname “Bie” in Thailand, brings a wide-eyed, wistful, “aww shucks” appeal to Song. The way he becomes enchanted with Ann after reading the entries in her forgotten journal is genuinely endearing, and not once does his infatuation become creepy or unsettling in that stalker-y manner because he consistently conveys such pure intentions. Actress and model Laila Boonyasak (formerly known as and credited here as Chermarn Boonyasak) brings an assertiveness to the part of Ann, a passionate educator who favours an interactive approach to teaching instead of rote memorisation. In the opening scene, we learn that she is reassigned to the houseboat because she refuses to remove a tattoo of three stars on her wrist. She is spirited and dedicated but never an overly-idealised “dream girl” caricature, the relationship troubles between her and her boyfriend Nui presented compellingly. All the kids in this are great too.

While The Teacher’s Diary might be a little too cloying and twee for some and features a good deal of slapstick humour, it never overdoes the melodrama or the silliness and we get pulled into this unique “relationship” between two parties who for the bulk of the film are unaware of the other’s existence. Some of the jokes are Thai language puns, the subtitles valiantly offering some kind of an interpretation. For a film that sounds like it would consist mostly of the male protagonist moping about pining for some girl, there’s a good deal that happens and there are several unexpected turns in the narrative. Thsis reviewer found himself rooting for Song to eventually find Ann and did shed a tear or two. Kate Beckinsale likes sensitive guys, right?

Summary: Romantic, heartwarming and gorgeously filmed, The Teacher’s Diary is at once old-school and unconventional, sweet and compelling instead of mawkishly sentimental.

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong