Friday, August 3, 2012
Bastard Reaction: Chocolate (2008)
I've been watching a bit of martial arts movies as of late, and for the most part I've been conditioned to ignore storytelling flaws in favor of well choreographed kickass action. The 2008 Thai film Chocolate was no different, but all told one of the better stories of the ones I've seen lately. It was directed under the capable hands of Prachya Pinkaew famous for his Ong Bak and The Protector movies. It also featured an impressive up-and-coming martial artist Yanin JeeJa (also known as Yanin Vismitananda) making her acting debut.
Taking a page from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, two members from rival gangs fall in love with each other; Japanese yakuza Masashi and Thai gang member Zin. Thai mob boss was having none of this, in part out of jealousy, and forbade the relationship under the threat of death. Masashi was forced back to Japan to keep the peace, leaving the now pregnant and out of favor Zin to manage on her own. Zen is the autistic daughter of this union, who has an uncanny talent to learn by imitating other martial artists. Now in their teens, her adopted brother who helped raise her finds an old ledger detailing people who owe money to Zin. Well, Zen and her brother go on a dangerous and violent journey to collect the money which their mother needs for her cancer treatment.
I've always been fond of stories with kids kicking ass. Given, it requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief, but what the heck. Though the story is not all that polished, and a bit disjointed at times, I couldn't help but applaud the attempt to tell a meaningful story amid a movie that's non-stop action once it gets going. And the action is quite impressive.
Since the success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (and probably even before then), it seems like there's an obsession of using "wire-fu" to depict the amazing and transcend the limits of the human body. Personally, not a fan of it, though can be appreciated from time to time. But when I go looking for a martial arts movie, I'm more interested in seeing the raw effort, something that looks real; and it's even more impressive.
Chocolate was just what the doctor ordered. No wires, and apparently no stunt doubles, and the result was one of the most awesome efforts of martial arts I've had the pleasure of watching on film. Violent and exciting. In the end credits it features one of the most incredible, and honestly a bit disturbing, set of bloopers I've ever seen. It makes you appreciate what the actors went through to get this movie done. I don't know how people survived this movie, and I'd be interested to know how it compares with the stunts done in other countries, like say...United States.
Yanin JeeJa, who plays the autistic Zen, was a pleasure to watch. Nothing to say about her acting, but she looked great in the action sequences. Particularly impressive as she went imitating various big shots in martial arts cinemas, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Tony Jaa who stars in various other Pinkaew films, and holding her own against bigger and older opponents.
Next time your are itching for a bit of action and martial arts, don't hesitate to grab a copy of Chocolate. Amazing choreographed fights balanced with a touching story of love and sacrifice.
Buy or watch Chocolate online here.