Sunday, 4 January 2009
Directed by: Prachya Pinkaew
Written by: Napalee Sakveerakul & Chookiat Sakveerakul
Starring: Jeeja Yanin
Thai action cinema continues to dominate the arena and Chocolate is another superb example. From the makers of international hits Ong Bak and Warrior King, Chocolate features oodles of bone breaking action, a rather touching story and a ton of creativity. Ong Bak and Warrior King made Tony Jaa a star but Chocolate sees new sensation Jeeja Yanin take centre stage. She plays Zen, a young girl born with autism who lives with her single mum. Having escaped the gangster world, the two live from day to day trying to lead a normal life. Despite her condition Zen is blessed with the ability to mimic the moves of martial arts stars she watches in movies. Finding it a way to help her focus she becomes adept at martial arts and along with her best friend performs for crowds of people to earn a little extra cash. But when Zen’s mother falls foul to leukaemia and they need more money to pay doctor’s bills, Zen decides to go collect all the debts owed to her mother from her days as a gangster’s moll. Needless to say, the gangsters aren’t too cooperative leading Zen to unleash some wicked moves.
Chocolate had a lot to live up to coming from the same director as Ong Bak, a film it was always going to be compared to. But Chocolate isn’t just a female version of Ong Bak. It certainly delivers a ton of well orchestrated fight scenes but there is a lot heart to Chocolate as well. Jeeja Yanin makes a very impressive debut as not only did she have to train extensively for the fight scenes but learn how to convincingly portray autism as well. She does an amazing job convincing in both departments and imbuing Zen with an affectionate quality. It’s also incredible that she makes you believe this young girl can kick so much ass. The action is rough, tough and very painful. Overseen by Thai action guru Panna Rittikari (Ong Bak, Born to Fight) Jeeja Yanin cuts lose in a serious of inventive fights that climaxes in an amazing 20 minute takedown inside, on top of and down one side of a building. This petite woman has awesome kicking power and throws herself into the fights feet, head and elbows first. Highlights include a painful scrap in a meat market, an ice house fight where she imitates Bruce Lee and an awesome (but all too brief) fight were she takes on another autism suffering teenager who can fight just as well as her. Its knuckle dusting, bone crunching, elbow and knee bashing fun as the fights get more elaborate, creative and just down right painful. Some may have trouble believing this little woman is kicking everyone’s butt and the fights aren’t as fast and acrobatic as Ong Bak but they are nevertheless brilliant and again show why Thai films are at the forefront of action cinema.
No doubt it will always be in the shadow of Tony Jaa’s films but Chocolate is just as worthy. Exhilarating action and just plain good old story telling and one mighty performance from that little lady makes Chocolate one of the best no holds barred action films to come out in some time.