2008 was a marvelous year for thai-action. Not only did we see Tony Jaa in the masterpiece Ong-Bak 2 (yes, it was), there was also the charming Som Tum (Released in the west as Muay Thai Giant, more of a family movie, but with great fights and stunts) and the subject of this review: Chocolate, a movie retitled Zen - Warrior Within for the scandianvian release! Terrible "new" title, but probably more easy to sell to stupid teenagers.
JeeJa Yanin plays Zen, an autistic girl that has a real talent: she's extremly fast and learns martial arts quicker than anyone else. Born by a thai woman and a japanese gangster, she's now starving together with her cancer-sick mother and a chubby boy called Mang Moom. First she and Mang Moom starts to have shows on the streets where she catches oranges and other round objects. One day the find her mothers old book where all the people owning her money are written down. Moom and Zen are start collecting the money, and suddenly - with the help of some Tony Jaa-movies - Zen is a martial arts champion, kicking her way through gangsters and other lowlife!
If you fight (no pun intended) your way through the first half hour of thai soft-rock and even lamer popsongs, you will find one of the coolest and most spectacular fight-movies I've seen in a long time. This the second time I've seen it but I honestly didn't remember that it was SO much action in it! The first three fights/chases are vintage Jackie Chan, even if Yanin isn't as quick as a young Jackie or Tony Jaa nowdays. It even get's a bit nasty when people are really getting hurt during the slaughterhouse-fight. One guy kicks to high and get's his foot stuck in a meat hook, looses his balance and get's hangning in it. Brutal and a nice touch! Then it get more serious and quite bloody in a couple of cool sequences, until the stunt-filled finale where people are falling like rain from the walls and roof of a seedy building in the middle of Bangkok.
The only problem is that JeeJa Yanin is quite small and it's hard to believe that she can pull those powerful punches. And the stuntmen are taking it more easy with her than with Tony Jaa or Dan Chupong. But the fighting is beautifully staged and the stunts are wild and painful. This is a movie that deserves much more praise and press than it gotten so far.
A movie that grows and gets better for each time. Good stuff!