Movie review: Just a showcase for stuntmen


90 minutes / Opens tomorrow / **

The story: Thee (Diew-Choopong Changprung) and Than (Wut-Nantawut Boonrupsup) are brothers whose parents were murdered by an unknown enemy. Thee leaves his uncle's car workshop to seek the truth by becoming an assassin. Than stays in the workshop, but becomes a skilled martial arts fighter too. Both become entangled with gangsters, killers and crime lords as they get closer to their quarry.

Vengeance Of An Assassin is filled with highly choreographed lunatic-fighting setpieces, which the Thais are absolute masters at. But, alas, it is not Ong Bak (2003), Tom Yum Goong (2005) or the hit Indonesian film The Raid: Redemption (2011).

Those were purposeful, inventive action movies with an exciting level of creativity that truly entertained. Ong Bak saw its star, Jaa, hopping through obstacles that would have given Jackie Chan many hernias. The Raid had a captivating plot set in a building run by fearsome thugs.

But Vengeance looks like a showcase for the Stuntmen Association and Exploding Blood Squib Brigade of Thailand looking to sell their considerable penchant for risking life, limb and common sense for what seems like the sheer bravado heck of it.

The film-makers here do have very good ideas of turning regular objects such as a car licence plate, a chicken drumstick and a rotating fan into lethal weapons.

This Thai team's prowess at the long, one-take shot of spectacular, slo-mo, almost poetic choreography of violence is also totally top class. But this is mostly a mass orgy of fight porn of various illogical permutations - train versus helicopter, head versus mallet, gun versus mouth.

You start out being awed and end up giggling hysterically, especially when Thee is hit several times by a car in a comical replay after replay as a product placement to bring home the message that if you need a guy being hit by a car continually in a movie, please call him.

The laughs are bursting in your battered tummy until you crack up at the unintentionally funniest line. "He's one lucky man, they missed his dangerous parts, he's not going to die," someone says about Thee after he is pummelled, slashed and shot.

The brothers weep buckets in emotional scenes over their beloved uncle. But there is nothing to suggest that these two fellas who do not even look like each other are so-called siblings since they do not stick together long enough in any meaningful scene.

Thee leaves the workshop and becomes some kind of terminator-assassin, following orders to wipe out nasty folks with his guns and grenades in insane numbers for no logical reason other than this is a Thai action movie.

Meanwhile, Than occasionally sneaks into a locked room for D-I-Y martial arts training by learning to fight like Ong Bak through stealthily watching videotapes of people fighting.

You shudder to think what ultimate calamity would have befallen if he had seen videotapes of Justin Bieber instead.

This article was first published on December 31, 2014.
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