Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Warrior King


Directed by: Prachya Pinkaew
Starring: Tony Jaa

The hit action team of Tony Jaa and Prachya Pinkaew reunite for the follow up to their 2003 international hit, Ong Bak, in Warrior King (or Tom Yung Goong as it is really known), a film that travels similar paths as the previous flick but is never as wholly satisfying. One man fight/stunt/gymnast team, Jaa, plays Kham, a quiet Thai village boy who spends most of his time looking after his two elephants. When said pachyderms are kidnapped by ruthless poachers and shipped to Australia, Kham sets out on the road of revenge, intent on returning his beloved pets to their home and breaking many, many, many bones along the way.

As stated in the promotional trailers on the extra features disc, Warrior King was the most anticipated Thai action film of the year. As a consequence of such hype, the film was never going to live up to expectations and, despite having a lot to recommend it, doesn’t match the sheer adrenaline of Ong Bak. This is partly due to an uneven tone, a choppy storyline (to say the least) and the misguided attempt to include English speaking Thai cast members who have not quite mastered the language. Armed with a larger budget and the pressure to top Ong Bak, the film makers have simply tried to cram in too much. Along with kidnapped elephants we get scheming cops, a comedy sidekick, oodles of Thai style melodrama, a lady-boy crime boss, a wildly vivid colour scheme and even the odd CGI animated sequence. It’s a lot to take in for what is essentially a straightforward storyline and a complete 180 from Ong Bak’s stripped down and streamlined plot.

However, and moving aside from the obligatory comparisons with Ong Bak, Warrior King is still a thrillingly entertaining film, stuffed to the seams with incredible action. Jaa, Pinkaew and stunt coordinator, Panna Rittikrai, excel in their fight choreography in some of the best fight scenes conceived in recent times. Watch Jaa (who is a competent gymnast as well as martial artist) flip, hurl, kick, spin and punch his way through a series of confrontations including a scrap with rollerblading punks, a dust up featuring not 1 but 4 hulking behemoths, a visually stunning fight in a burning temple and that infamous uninterrupted, 4 minute takedown up several flights of stairs. Yet the highlight (for this reviewer at least) is where Jaa inflicts so much pain on about 50 black suited adversaries as he breaks their arms, legs and backs over and over until none are left standing.

Flawed it may be, but Warrior King is a worthy follow up, featuring unmatched martial arts combat that actually gets better each time you watch it. Premiere Asia’s disc is backed up with a plethora of quality extras including trailers, pre-production fight action and cast and crew interviews.

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