lördag 30 juni 2012

Headhunter (2004)

It's trash-time at The Mee Noi Thai Movie Review!

It’s not often nowadays, I know. But I will be better, promise folks! There seem to be tons and tons of cheap shot on video movies in Thailand, and during a period cheap 3D-movies shot on video was even more popular. They never reached outside Thailand and its VCD and DVD-market, and I guess most people just are happy because of that. Me, a brave man, likes to dive into the unknown and therefore I’ve seen – so you don’t have to – Headhunter!

A serial killer (no, actually two serial killers) are murdering their way thru Bangkok (I think…) and is collection body parts. Their dad is a man with black magic as a speciality and he want to create a new man, a “Frankenstein’s Monster” more or less, but will make him alive with magic instead of electricity.

After one of the sons is killed by the police they want to take revenge on them, and kidnaps and chops up the brother of our hero-cop. Not soon after that, they have a zombie, a living dead super-strong killer built of body parts – and the head of the brother!

Yes, Headhunter is cheap trash with cheap gore and cheap acting. It’s not boring, I can’t say that, but a lot of the story is destroyed by two other characters – a nosy female journalist and her very stereotypical gay photographer. They are written like two morons and is totally unnecessary for the story. They’re just there to be some kinda silly, idiot non-funny comic relief.

The gore is cheap, but its quite bloody – though it’s nothing to some other Thai movies I’ve seen. What works though is the 3D, which looks fine and a lot better than I expected. The colours look realistic and the depth is ok, at least when the camera is moving around on rail or on a steady cam. Even if you would see this in 2D, there is not chance in hell that you would have missed the 3D-feeling because there’s something always pointing towards the camera, always!

Headhunter is crappy, cheap entertainment. Nothing else.

fredag 29 juni 2012

Slice (2010)

Wow, shit. Slice is a heavy piece of Thai cinema. It wasn't really what I expect, actually it was a good thing - but I was kinda into watching a more commercial and "simple" serial killer-movie, but got a very brutal, downbeat serial killer/childhood-drama with some stunning visuals and excellent acting. It starts of with a farang pedophile getting stabbed in his hotel room - the little boy as a witness - by a person in a big read cloak. The man's genitals are then cut off and he's stuffed in a red bag and dumped into the sea. This isn't the first victim for the killer, who attacks virtually everyone that has some special sexual fetisch - neither it's illegal or not.

The police handling the case, the nasty Papa Chin (Chatchai Plengpanich) get's fifteen days to solve the case when the son of the chief of police is killed and get his anal ripped open, and hanged up-side-down outside in the public - wearing female underclothing! He remember that his old friend Tai (Arak Amornsupasiri), an ex-cop - nowadays in prison for killing another officer - once talked about a friend of his, Nat, who might be involved in the case. He get's Tai out of prison, gives him a gun and a cell phone and tells him to find the killer in fifteen days - and so Tai goes back to his childhood village and soon we learn the tragic story of Nat, a boy that wanted to be his friend and maybe more...

I guess this could be one of the most graphic and controversial Thai thriller ever and the style of the movie, a lot of non-shaky handcamera, experimental visuals and naturalistic acting was probably something that turned of the normal Thai audience - it became a flop to, which is a damn pity because it's one of the best Thai movies I've seen in a very long time. This is a movie that never lets the audience calm down and go back to that normal state of non-thinking, non-controversial relaxation. When some shit happens here it happens big, and it won't take long until something even worse happens. The stuff in this movie is something that never, and I mean never, would happen in an American movie. The story deals a lot with pedophilia, which is a very rare subject in Thai cinema (I think this is the first time I see it), and the abuse that both children and women are victims off.

But because the murders are so fierce, it's hard to first connect to the killer - understand why he or she is doing this - but after every detail of abuse, every crappy person that lives in the earth shows up, fuck someones life up over and over again, it's starting to make sense. Everything comes together in the end in a way I think is good, but I would have prefered a slightly different ending. Good or bad means nothing in Slice, which makes it even more interesting.

And yes, for fans of gore and violence, you have a lot to see here - but I doubt you will find any enjoyment from it. The only scene that might pass as "entertainment" is a shoot-out at a sex-club, which is filmed very arty, in slow-motion, with lots of blood and violence. The set is also a weird carousel and the first thing that came to my mind was a Roman orgy! It's hard to describe, so give the movie a try and see what you feel about it.

Because feeling is everything here, thinking and analysing is further slices down in the cake.

torsdag 28 juni 2012

Operation Bangkok (เพชรตัดเพชร, 1967)

Operation Bangkok is an awesome Thai/Hong Kong co-production from 1967. Starring the only and only, Mitr Chaibancha and leading ladies Regina Pai Ping and (of course) Petchara Chaowarath, this a action-packed, fun and visually strong action movie with enough kitch for everyone. No subtitles of course, but Chaibancha's character seem to go undercover (as usual) in some crime organization and gets in to a lot of fistfights, always with a perfect hair cut. Yes, except a slower half-hour during the last hour of the movie (it's almost two hours long), this is a damn effective and good-looking piece of action cinema. There's more the one fistfight, often violent and with excellent editing. Shoot-outs, car-chase with helicopter, a fight on a speeding boat and even more fistfights!

Shot on what looks like 35 mm, it look less cramped than some of Chaibancha's 16 mm-movies from the same era, and the co-production with Hong Kong probably brought a lot more money into the production than usual. It's also shot in Hong Kong, some parts at least, and boats a big cast of cool actors. The production is slick and looks like a much bigger movie than it probably was, and the only thing that makes this film suffer is the very scratcy master - but still, it's probably the only version left and this is as good as it ever will look nowadays.

Chaibancha is as usual an excellent leading actor, and this time he's also paired with another guy who I don't know the name of, but he has a great face and has a lot of chemistry together with Mitr. One of the fights in the end, where both of them are fighting each other in some old warehouse is one of the action-highlights of this charmer of a movie. Another wonderful thing is the cool music numbers. Because this movie is set in couple of different nightclubs, so there's always a new Thai-pop/beat group playing on stage, probably real groups doing cameos. Most of the time we're allowed to see the whole numbers too, so it's a great way of watching kitchy Thai-versions of western pop/rock/beat!

I have a lot of good things to say about Operation Bangkok, because it deserves it. Even with out subtitles and with a constant rain of scratches, this is one of the best and coolest Chaibancha-movie I've seen so far.

1 2 3 Monster Express (1-2-3 ด่วนมหาภัย, 1977)

First of all, I'm not sure when this movie was released - most sources say 1977, but some claims 1970 or 1971, and one say 1975. Sorapong Chatree looks very young here, so it could be the early seventies. Anyway, 1 2 3 Monster Express was the biggest blockbuster that year in Thailand and I can understand why. First of all, the story is very, very, very simple...

We have the usual suspects in a seventies thriller: the pregnant woman, the teenagers, a young military (Sorapong of course), one more typical leading man (Krung Srivilai, who I've mentioned here before), an eldery man and so on. All of them are traveling with a long distance bus, but someone really want to stop that bus. First a couple of robbers are following them and tries to stop the bus, but one man on the bus has a weapon and stops them - and they we realize that he's a gangster too - and that he has a couple more collegues on the bus! The passengers stops them too after some fighting and shooting, but are ambushed again by more baddies and is brought to a prison camp! From there they escape AGAIN with the bus, after a lot of action of course... and they more bad guys takes up the chase... and I even have to mention that there's a bomb on the bus?

I think everyone understands, this is non-stop action from start to finish (actually, the first ten minutes is quite slow but has a big fight and the last ten minutes is a bit slow, but has a pregnant woman giving birth on the bus) in the classic cheap but spectacular way we all learned to love from the Thai's. The fights are of course only fistfights and stuff like that, but it's violent and with a lot of energy. Bloody squibs, explosions and a few good stunts here and there makes this a damn fun movie - and even without subtitles it's easy to understand the twists and turns.

Visually it looks better than I thought it would. The claustrophobic setting on the bus is used with talent (and my god, it must have been warm on that bus when they shot the movie - no studio here, just a moving bus in the hot sun all the time) and the movie looks very fine. It also has two stylish slow-motion shots during the last half, but it could have been more if I could choose. What helps the movie even more is the stolen soundtrack, probably from similar American thrillers and disaster movies. It fits the mood and style, and it's nice to hear something else than cues from the Bond-movies, Pink Floyd or The Pink Panther-theme for once!

The Thai VCD looks quite good, even during the night shots, but is (of course) cropped on the sides. But it's one of the better looking VCD's of such an old Thai-movie I've seen. Recommended.

onsdag 27 juni 2012

War of Devils (199?)

According to IMDB, Tony S. Suvat wrote two movies around 1990: The Lost Idol (with Erik Estrada and Sorapong Chatree) and In Gold We Trust (with Jan-Michael Vincent and Sam J. Jones, got good reviews in Variety in 1992)), both directed by one "Philip Chalong". If Tony is just a writing-alias for Philip Chalong I have no idea, but Tony S. Suvat (or maybe his name is Buncherd Dhawee?) is credited as the director and writer of this little known movie, War of Devils. The only place I've seen something that resembles a review say it's from 2007, but that's not correct. It look more like early nineties.

Inspired my American horror-movies, it starts of with a couple of teenagers (but I guess they are well above 25, going with the tradition of slasher-movies) in a Scooby Doo-van, looks like something right from the seventies with the famous peace-mark embedded in a a very trippy paint-job.They are rocking to the max while listening to a, probably, unlicensed Highway Star with Deep Purple! After a few hours on their trip they are far out in Reckneckistan and stops by a little store - where some hillbillys, here represented by local gerillas or something, starts bugging them. Soon they are out in the jungle and meet an old (floating in the air) man that warns them about going further, but they don't listen to him.

Not long after this the rednecks is catching up and wants to have little fun with the girls, and maybe kill their boyfriends, but they are stopped in the last minute by a forest ghost, a flying woman with a manic laughter and with the power to transform herself to a rotting corpse - still flying, waving her arms like a bird! The rednecks wants to take revenge for her stopping the fun, and finally manages to kill one of the kids - and this starts a war! Finally one of the bad guys uses his black magic to invoke a couple of monsters: a vampire dwarf, a rotting zombie, a Thai-warrior with two faces and a bat/ape-esque demon from Hell!

The kids takes shelter in a house and has to defend themselves against the monsters outside!

The inspiration from the US slasher movies obviously stops with them leaving the rednecks at the store, because after that it's traditional weirdo Thai-territory! War of Devils is a good-looking little movie who are more ambitious than a lot of the other movies set in jungle thats been produced in Thailand. The direction is inspired and way better than usual, and it also looks damn good. The first half is a bit slow, with too much talking, but it builds up to the Night of the Living Dead-style finale and delivers a lot of fun during the time. The special effects are good, sometimes very good. The flying woman and demon from hell works very good and looks cool and convincing. They also added some animated sparkles to the woman, which actually works fine. The rotting zombie is disgusting, the vampire dwarf is cooler than you would think and the Thai warrior is a bit scary with his huge deadly sword.

It also delivers some gore, though not in any big amounts. There's a nice chopped of arm, some impalings by sword and other pointy things, a quite dark scene of the zombie ripping out the intestines from a character, some squibs and a little bit more. But the best thing is just the monsters attacking the house in different ways, the black magic vs the white magic. It's a bit childish, but with a mean-spirited feeling of sadism.

I have the Thai VCD, and the cover don't look that exciting. But it's a fun movie (and the picture quality is ok) that belongs to the old style of Thai-filmmaking, still low budget and quite obscure. I was afraid that the generic (but competent) beginning would set the course for the rest of the movie, but it takes a wonderful quirky turn and shows us that the Thai's always know how twist our expectations a little bit extra.

tisdag 19 juni 2012

Aussawin Darb Gaiyasid (อัศวินดาบกายสิทธิ์, 1970)

From the first of October 1970 to the fifth, the same year, just under a week, Mitr Chaibancha was in Hong Kong and Taiwan and shot one of the few foreign (or co-productions) movies in his career. A couple of days later he was back in Pattaya and did the final scenes in Golden Eagle, the first movie he produced and starred in at the same time. As we all know, that final take was the take that led to his death and he left behind 266 feature length movies in fourteen years and 18 unfinished productions that had to be shut down or re-shot because of his death!

I don’t know the original title of Aussawin Darb Gaiyasid, but most of the cast seem to be Chinese – and the only actor I can identify is the great and awesome Kien Shih. The female lead is played be a Thai actress in this version, but I heard that it was a Chinese actress doing the part in the Hong Kong version. Anyway, because I watched it without subtitles and it has a lot of story and characters it was kinda hard to follow. But what we have is the traditional love story, two enemy families and one of them owns a salt mine. Chaibancha plays the son in one of the families and seem to be fighting a lot with another dude, maybe someone from the other family. In one sequence I get the idea that one of them has some kind of psychic powers, because he can move heavy objects. Maybe making them magnetic. Yeah, that’s about it.

I’ve been trying to decipher the Thai Wikipedia about this movie with the help of Google Translate, and after Chaibancha died the director also brought in another actor with a similar face and body to shoot rest of Chaibancha’s scenes. I didn’t notice this when I watched it, so either it was very little or the other actor had very similar look.

Even if I didn’t understand a friggin’ word of the movie I enjoyed it immensely. The action was more or less non-stop with a lot of fun and bloody sword-fighting. Maybe because of the print quality, it had a very nice gritty feeling. Especially those scenes shot outside of the studio, around beautiful Taiwan. Cool angles, some smart use of handheld camera and lots of energy. Sure, it might just be the result of the low budget and fast shooting schedule, but it still looks and feels very impressive.

Mitr Chaibancha impresses in the only serious role I’ve seen him in so far (when this review was written, which was a while ago...). After all the tongue-in-cheek action flicks from Thailand it was cool to see him in such a meaty, blood-soaked, part. Petchara Chaowarat also appears, and she's a fantastic actress that worked together with Chaibancha for many, many movies. 

The Thai DVD from Triple X is not bad at all. Anamorphic widescreen and, I think, uncut. The print is quite rough, but for us that appreciate these kind of movies it just makes it even better.