onsdag 21 januari 2015

Cannibal Mercenary (รับจ้างตาย,1988)

One of the most legendary Thai cult films people know about is Cannibal Mercenary. There’s a lot of incorrect information out there, but the director is Chao Meekunsoot - a quite popular action director, working for big companies like Five Star and Sahamongkol Films, but when the business declined he became independent and started shooting quick, violent films for the rural market in Thailand - this was at the end of the eighties and Employ to Die (aka รับจ้างตาย) was one of them. In the lead we see Chatchai Plengpanich, a pretty big TV-star at the time - mostly for his work in the popular action TV-series Tee Vai (aka ตี๋ใหญ่, 1985). So now everyone knows that, okay? Correct the whole internet, please.

Plengpanich plays Wilson, a depressed and hard hitting soldier who accepts one final mission. He's deeply disturbed by his experiences in Vietnam, but goes out in the once jungle again so he can get money and save his sick daughter. He gather his old gang of misfits; a sex-maniac, a wife-killer and so on, and they starts the journey. On their way they meet a lot of Vietcongs, innocent villagers and traitors... and finally the main bad guy and his hoard of cannibal henchmen!

I think few fanboys out there have realized that Cannibal Mercenary is - more or less - a rip-off on Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. The first scene is very similar to Coppola’s movie, with our leading man being depressed in a sad hotel room somewhere, with the fan in roof slowly spreading the hot air, making it even more sweaty and dirty. On the wall is a poster very similar to the Apocalypse Now poster also, with the rising sun over the jungle. The mission Plengpanich goes on is to kill a renegade high military who have barricaded himself out in the jungle together with his followers. But there the similarities end, because Cannibal Mercenary is one crazy, low budget ride to hell!

If you’ve seen once war movie from the Philippines and Thailand you’ve seen them all, to be frank. but Cannibal Mercenary proudly goes too far, like Meekunsoot was fucking angry at the time. Like he wanted to show all those bastard big companies that his movie can beat them all. And in a way he was right, because still today this one - not even the sequel to it - is talked about, discussed and analyzed. Not that it’s much too analyze! Chatchai Plengpanich is really good as the complex, kinda sad hero, and his colleagues on the mission are shallow but crazy motherfuckers.

It’s so filled with action it never becomes boring, and boy, is it bloody! Yeah, this deserves to be called jungle splatter with it’s fine sortiment of decapitations, stabbings, limb-choppings, squibs, explosions, fights and no less than two scenes involving people pissing on each other! The torture scenes is extreme and no one escapes the violence, from adults to kids. The only movie I can compared it with is Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo from 2008, but I consider Cannibal Mercenary a better movie - mostly because it misses the conservative, republican message that violence is good for you.

I once sat on a café in Bangkok dealing with the rights owner to Cannibal Mercenary, an old frail man with a plastic bag filled with VCD’s of the movies he had the rights not. Nothing came out of it, he wanted too much money for me and he could only deliver a cut master anyway. But if anyone out there, a serious distribution company, wants to get the rights and put together a composite of the bootleg available on DVD (ignore the version called Jungle Killers, it lacks the gore and adds scenes of some stupid western “actors” walking around in the jungle), just contact me and I will give you the contact info to one who can help you. 

Cannibal Mercenary delivers everything you expect it to deliver, that makes it so good!

lördag 18 maj 2013

The Kick (วอนโดนเตะ!!, 2011)

Last year I visited Thailand for the second time and even if I bought at least 50 movies there, met movie legends and had a blast in every way possible, I think The Kick is one of the first Thai movies I've watched in almost a year. It's not that I got tired of Thai films, it's that I miss Thailand (and Bangkok) so damn much. Watching these flicks makes me go into some kind of post-Thailand depression - and it happens every time. I never travel to Thailand to drink cheap booze or lay on the beach, for me it's about meeting fanastic people, getting lost in the labyrinth of Bangkok streets... I feel at home there, which is odd - I dislike when it's people everywhere. But Bangkok makes me feelt at home. Need to go there soon again...
The Kick is director Prachya Pinkaew (Ong-Bak, Tom yum goong) latest movie to be released, and it was in 2011 (I'm ignoring Elephant White from the same year, which just felt like another boring American action film). But it's never been released in any easy accessible English (or Swedish)-friendly release - until I noticed that Swedish company Njuta Films would release it! One way or another it found it's way to me and hey, this isn't bad at all!
A South Korean Taekwondo family have emigrated to Thailand to (I guess) run a school and stuff like that. By a coincidence they help saving a national treasure, an ancient knife (the McGuffin of this movie, it could have been an elephant, a Buddha or something else - it's just not that important). The baddies wants revenge and the knife, and attacks the family and kidnaps their youngest kid - and the family is forced to help them steal the knife again! But of course they want to make everything right - together with their Thai relatives, masters of Muay Thai!
The films of Pinkaew (and stunt choreographer Rittikrai) have never been famous for their elaborate plots and it's the same with The Kick. It's a very simple story, almost too simple, but works because one of the best casts so far in one of their movies. The South Korean actors are all very good, and handles both the drama and action very well. The main Thai actors are the BRILLIANT JeeJa Yanin, one of the best female fighters I've seen and also a fine actress, and the famous comedian Petchtai Wongkamlao aka Mum Jokmok. I like him, but he's a very aquired taste - and I'm happy to say that he's bringing us a low-key, realistic performance here with very little of his trademark comedy - and he's great. I hope to see him do stuff like this more. He's perfect as a grumpy middle-aged uncle.
But like all of these films the action is the number one star. Now, this is a family friendly action film so don't expect the bloodshed and ultra-violence of the Ong-Bak or Born to Fight, but it doesn't mean it's spectacular. The fights are as usual filmed in a way so we can see what's happening and they're getting gradually more spectacular the further the story goes. The highlight is the when the teenage son uses his dance moves to fight a bunch of baddies in the jungle. It's a brilliant example of how Pinkaew and Rittikrai always tries to evolve the fights, makes them a bit more unique than the usual stuff. Another fun scene is in a kitchen when Mum Jokmok and the South Korean mother creates a chaotic symphony by destroying everything around them in order to kick the shit out of the bad guys. 
It's a lot of action and some very fine stunts during the last half of the movie. So I'm sure you won't be disappointed. It's a fine co-production between South Korea and Thailand and I'm surprised I haven't it seen it getting better distributon outside Asia. I hope more fans of creative martial arts will get a chance to see it. 

fredag 19 oktober 2012

Bin Bunluerit - Chainsaw Hunk

This is Bin Bunluerit and it's a still from the movie Roy Pah (ร้อยป่า, 1986). I think I don't have to write more. It's brilliant in every way possible. I will buy this DVD and review it sooner or later. Watch this space. 

torsdag 18 oktober 2012

Krai Thong 2 (ไกรทอง 2, 1985)

A couple of years after the last movie Krai Thong is now back in another exciting adventure, Krai Thong 2, unfortunately watched without subtitles so I'm not 100 % sure about the story this time. Not that it seems any complicated at all. The whole movie is just one crocodile attack after another and not much more. "Well, thank you Sompote Sands!" I say and raises my hand in a respectful gesture, because that's exactly what I want with a movie like this: a rubber monster and gore!

A new evil wizard is in town and has taken over Chalawa's old golden cave. This guy also have to women down there, if they are kidnapped or not I have no idea, but they seem to like it. Anyway, it might be them - or the evil wizard - who goes on bloody rampages along the river, eating, killing and maiming everyone from little babys and children to old people and... yeah, about everyone else coming it the crocodiles way. Of course Krai Thong (Sorapong Chatree) is called into action again, probably believing it's his old nemesis Chalawa who's back in business again!

Yeah, while the story seems uncomplicated, it's a movie packed with action - a lot more than the first one and maybe much of it is stock footage from some earlier film, I don't know because I don't recognize the main set-pieces from any other proejct, but on the other hand, I haven't seen them all yet. What's a little bit of a disappointment is how little screen time Sombat Metanee has, he's just have a glorified cameo at the end and Sorapong Chatree has fairly little screen time compared to the first movie. I mean, these are the starts - and both is always brilliant whatever they do. Sorapong gets most to do, including flying on an angry crocodile...

... and Sombat just participates (in human form) in one action scene, which is a quite nice fight between him and the new evil wizard down in the golden cave. The highlight here is when the evil wizard sends several mini-crocodiles towards Sombat who has to battle those completely immovable, dead, puppets like a madman - if you need a comparison, think about Bela Lugosi vs. the giant octopus in Bride of the Monster. Another good thing with Kraithong 2 is that it's a lot gorier than the first part. First of all, there's a lot of blood-pumping attacks in the water, but during one sequence the crocodile crawls up on lands and starts tearing people apart with very gory and bloody fashion. Sompote Sands here uses real-life amputees who have fake-limbs attached to their stumps and the crocodile-puppet can chomp away as much as possible on them! It looks quite good, or at least gory.

To simplify the story and focus more on action is good for a movie like this. There's no need to follow the storyline of some ancient legend and the production actually has a less heavier tone. It's more fun, more action and more blood - but also less involving because or more undefined and weaker characters. Sombat and Sorapong is good and so is the new guy playing the evil wizard, but the rest of the characters gets lost in storyblivion and is easy to mix up with each other.

But it's clearly a better and more sellable movie, much to the joy of a popcorn cinema fan like me. 

onsdag 17 oktober 2012

Krai Thong (ไกรทอง, 1980)

When visited Sompote Sangduenchai (aka Sompote Sands) earlier this year I got a unique look into a fantastic film factory like I never seen before. The only problem was that it was destroyed by the recent flooding in Thailand and the whole area was roughed up by the water. The doors into his house still had marks from the waterline, way way above what's even could be considered close to normal and it was shocking to understand how much props, posters... yeah, Thai movie history, that was destroyed during that disaster. Before we left the place we stopped by one of the big studios, now more or less empty because of the destruction - and I saw this:

Yeah, it's two of the crocodiles he always used in his movies. One with a wider nose and this one, with a more pointed snout. It might not say anything to you, but for me it was like being close to a legend - a cult movie legend in the form of a crocodile puppet being used to eat so many Thai stars over the years. What's even more bizarre, I never seen one of his more famous creations, the super-hit Krai Thong starring Sombat Metanee, Sorapong Chatree and Aranya Namwong. Today, after failing to see one single Thai movie for many months I finally sat down to watch it.

Chalawa (Sombat) is a might Crocodile Wizard living in a golden cave deep down under the water. One day he falls in love with two beautiful women, daughters of a rich man, and kidnaps them. They seem happy about it, but not the father who calls out for someone to save them - and here Krai Thong shows up, played by Sorapong - and he takes it upon himself to find and battle the wizard and stop his crocodile terror once and for all!

Like many of Sangduenchai's films it's a bit rough around the edges. It's closer to some Thai opera than a typical monster movie. And with Thai opera I mean it's very theatrical, filled with colourful costumes and sets that might not look realistic - but still works fine because the rest of the movie is so over-the-top. Actually, that description could work on most of Sangduenchai's films! But I think you know what I mean. The story it's more clear and understandable than usual, but it's also based on a classical folk tale and having a more defined storyline than if it was his own creation. It's actually not directed by Sompote, at least not according to the credits - but he's the man behind it, it's easy to see.

I love big rubber crocodiles and so do Sompote, as we all know. Krai Thong is packed with crocodile attacks, people getting chomped by the monster and everything is mixed with real crocodiles who hardly look like the rubber one at all. In one short shot the croc is about 500 times bigger than in the rest of the movie, which probably means that this shot is just stock footage from some earlier film he made. The attacks are pretty well made with a lot of pumping blood and kids being eaten over and over again. Fun for the whole family!

The actors do what they do best, looking cool. Sombat is mostly down in his cave making out with two ladies and Sorapong is mostly on the ground trying to find Sombat. They're both good and knows what they're doing after 500 movies behind them both. That's something called experience like few other actors have!

Krai Thong might just be for us, the most obsessed, but if you feel for watching it there's some good news: the Thai DVD and VCD actually has English subs! Amazing, and it makes everything much more clear! 

måndag 10 september 2012

Farewell, Pearl of Asia...

It's with shock and sadness I hear today that Pawana has left us. Yeah, that's the shittiest start of a Monday ever. According to Bangkok Post she was found drowned in her pool and some other sources says they also investigation her death as a possible murder.

Earlier this year I went to Thailand, both to meet dear friends and to have a well-deserved vacation. I met up with monster-maker Tong in Bangkok and we set out to hook up with actors and filmmakers we admired. One of them was the Pearl of Asia, Pawana Chanajit - star of countless Thai action movies and several Hong Kong films opposite David Chiang.

I met her at a restaurant outside Bangkok. She was a bit late, but when she arrived - an elegant, colorful, woman with a big smile - she welcomed this big, pale, bearded Swedish geek with open arms. Thanks Pawana! I will never forget that!

We sat down, me and Tong, for an hour or so, with her and talked movies and how she by chance became a movie star - and she made me eat some strange food also! :) She retired from acting in 1979 and was since then a successful business woman.

She was in a hurry – she actually forgot about our meeting – and was on the road to do other things, but took time to meet us , and after signing some posters for us she asked me when I would return to Thailand. Maybe in a year, or earlier I told her. She smiled, "Then we must meet again and talk longer, eat dinner and just hang out!" she said in excellent English.

I promised her that. And said goodbye.

She signed these for me, sorry for the bad quality. I will treasure them like no other posters in my collection.

Farewell you pearl of Asia, may you forever glimmer among the other stars that's left us.


lördag 11 augusti 2012

This blog is...

...is pretty dead. I'm not sure if I will let it stay alive. 
I'll give it until the end of the year. Need to find a good reason to actually keep writing.