Wednesday, 25 March 2009
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Staring: JeeJa Yanin, Ammara Siripong, Hiroshi Abe, Pongpat Wachirabunjong
Rating: 5 / 5
Plot: Zen who is born autistic is compensated with an uncanny ability to acquire martial art moves by merely watching other people in actual practice or just on the TV screen. When her mother Zin develops cancer, she sets out to collect her mother's old debts, from her previous life as a gangster, but soon draws the attention of her mothers old boss and lover Number 8 who is keen to claim the money for himself.
Review: You really have to hand it to director Pinkaew, who after his main staring attraction “Tony Jaa” who had previously wowed audiences in Ong Bak, suddenly went insane during production of Ong Bak 2, turning up several months later having spent most of the time living in a cave and having lost the production money. Still with JeeJa Yanin he seems to have once again found himself a new star in the making, while once again using the same formula of "No stuntman, No CGI" style that proved so successful with Tony Jaa and what also helped make Ong Bak such an exciting film to watch, which thankfully also be said for Chocolate.
The character of Zen much like Ting, ( who Tony Jaa played in Ong Bak ) are both similar in the way that they are not openly out looking for trouble, instead they are characters looking to achieve goals in the most straight forward way possible, only for trouble to constantly find them at every turn and much to the audiences delight, cause for them to kick a whole lot of ass, especially with Chocolate like Ong Bak having more than a few memorable fight sequences with each one not only being bone crunching brutal, but also giving the feeling that each one is constantly trying to out do the last, even if some scenes seem similar to Ong Bak, which clearly appears to have been the blueprint for Chocolate, but it still manages to find it’s own original take on each of these sequences, with JeeJa Yanin’s fight style being more environmentally based ( I.E use of everyday objects to aid combat ) and comparable to that of Jackie Chan, while incorporating elements of Thai fighting, meaning that there is more frequent use of elbow and knee attacks, even on occasion throwing in a few moves copied from Tony Jaa, whose moves Zen learns after watching scenes from Ong Bak, a cheeky reference which compares what many people thought when Chocolate first appeared and that JeeJa Yanin was the new Tony Jaa, which she might not be just yet, but certainly shows the signs of being a name to watch, even if she hasn’t quite got the speed, of some of the other big names in the martial arts genre, she certainly has the technique, easily combining her stunt work and fight sequences.
Speaking of stunt work, which after all is once again one of the selling points of Chocolate, with Yanin like Jaa before her doing all of her own stunt work, with some of the scenes, especially the final showdown with it’s rooftop battle being one particularly gripping moment of a sequence which is around twenty mins in length.
Chocolate manages to avoid a lot of the usual problems that plague the Kung Fu genre, such as weak characters and plotting which the majority of the time, is treated more like filler to the next fight sequence, which is thankfully is not the case here, with all of the characters coming across interesting enough to not only keep the attention of the audience, but even to the extent that you care enough about their plight rather than just wanting to fast forward to the next fight sequence, which are regular enough once Zen sets out on her debt collecting mission, to the point that I thought I was watching the Kung Fu version of Robert Rodriguez’s “Desperado”. However I couldn’t figure out why Number 8, who being a Thai gangster with a clear hatred of the Japanese Yakuza decides to dress his hideout, like “Kill Bill’s” House of Blue Leaves, let alone the fact he even has samurai sword welding henchmen!?! Still I guess he does have a psycho lady-boy henchman ( or shud that be henchwoman? ).
Chocolate makes up for the disappointing “Warrior King” while also giving a fresh new face, to the martial arts scene, which leaves you eager to see were JeeJa Yanin goes from here, which at the time of writing is still unknown, but I’d happily sit through Chocolate 2.