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!