onsdag 23 maj 2012

Choompae (ชุมแพ, 1976)

Did you know that every single movie Sombat Metanee did was released in 1976? No, just kidding - but that year seemed to have been a very productive year not only for Sombat but for a lot of filmmakers in Thailand. I have no idea why, but it was in the middle of the seventies, freedom probably got bigger and bigger and I'm sure most directors tried to boost themselves into making more and more spectacular movies. Choompae was one of the biggest hits that year and is still considered a classic, but the story is quite much like the other movies from the same time...

Pherg (pronounced Peeh) Chompae (which also seem to be the name of the town) comes back his old village to take revenge on the gangster, played by Kecha Plianvithee, who killed his father. Pherg is also a gangster and he's come back not only for revenge but to take over the crime business in the little town. No one wants him back, not the other bandits and not captain Chaiyo (Nard Poowanai). It won't take long until everyone is out to get Pherg and soon they're also going after his family, his old girlfriend and everyone close to him! It's time for Pherg to really clean up the trash!

What makes Sombat unique is his willingness to take on quite complex roles and his string of anti-heros from the seventies often outdoes both the Italian and American counterparts. Pherg is most of the movie quite un-sympathetic, but we're still willing to root for him. It's not only that he's very brutal, his behaviour towards women are more than nasty and in this movie he threatens with rape not only once but twice. But it's also a play with stereotypes, because he never goes that far - he just like to use the words to gain power. And compared to the real bad-bad guys he's nice in comparison.

Sombat has always been a good-looking fellow, but it wasn't until the middle of the seventies I think he really started to evolve when it came to the art of acting. I think most of it is because of the anti-hero parts he got offered. Not just playing nice and handsome, but doing more complex, multi-layered characters. His hair got wilder together with his performances. The rest of the cast is the usual suspect, all great: Kecha Plianvithee (who always reminds me of Joseph Wiseman), Dam Datsakorn (really nasty in this movie), always the good-guy Nard Poowanai and Pipop Pupinyo always doing his famous henchman with his classic biker-moustache! There's a bunch of other actors also, of course, but I haven't learned their names yet!

Choompae is a good start for you who wants to start watching old Thai action movie. It has everything and is also very well made. The direction, especially in the action and chase-scenes, is flawless and we're also treated to some insane stunts. The highlight being a nice fight on top of a bus that actually looks quite dangerous!

Another reason to start with this one is that the Thai DVD actually have English subs! Wow. It's also uncut, almost 2,5 hours and is correct ratio. It's still possible to buy, for example at eThaiCD. Buy it before it's gone, because these are one of those movies that will disappear sooner or later.