Raging Phoenix (Review)

Raging Phoenix

aka Jija Deu Suay Du

Directed by Rashane Limtrakul

Raging Phoenix is film a mix of romance and action, which garnered many reviews that weren’t that positive, largely due to disappointment it wasn’t another non-stop action film. I feel that there was plenty of action and am not really sure what all the complaints are about. I suspect it is more due to the length of time between action sequences making the film seem longer than it is.

Basically, people are complaining because this film has a plot longer than one sentence!

Now, a plot is not a bad thing, but the plot here has character arcs and an underlying plot that factors into the finale. It is constructed just fine, and try as I might I just can’t see why this was given such a harsh response. It wasn’t Chocolate 2 and it didn’t try to be, and it is unfair to expect it to be when it is screaming at you that it isn’t.

But it was too late, the bad reviews sunk in and it failed to reach No. 1 at the Thai box office on its opening weekend, losing out to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra which was in its second week. Sure, people still don’t like this film for a variety of reasons, but as I am not one of them I can’t speak as to specifics beyond the general tone of the film.

Raging Phoenix is known in Thailand as Jija Deu Suay Du, which means Jija: Stubborn, Beautiful and Fierce. As Jija’s character is named Deu, that means her character name is Stubborn. This role is a change of direction for Jija, as it involving acting beyond playing someone with emotional issues. She had to actually become a real person, which I think she pulled off rather well.

The director, co-writer and co-editor was Rashane Limtrakul, who had his debut film in 1995 (Romantic Blue) and then directed nothing until this 2009 feature. That’s about all I know about him.

This is probably the only film you have seen featuring mayraiyuth, the drunken Thai martial art. Unless you are a big fan of drunken Thai martial arts movies, in which case you would have seen more than this one and made my statement false. How dare you, sir!

But enough of the rantin’, let’s get to the reviewin’!

First up is the Roll Call, because we can’t have a review without it due to my deep mental issues of wanting formatting that makes the reviews take ten times longer than they should!

Deu (“Jija” Yanin Wismistananda) – a drummer chick, abandoned by her parents as a child and eventually abandoned by her band and boyfriend. Her drunken haze after drinking off her abandonment issues ends up getting her kidnapped, but she is rescued by Sanim. Eventually, Sanim and his boys train her in mayraiyuth, the drunken Thai martial art, and starts becoming a rescuer of kidnapped girls. And is in love with Sanim, even though he only has eyes for his kidnapped fiancée.
Sanim (Patrick “Kazu” Tang) – a strong, mostly-silent type who hangs out with a couple of other guys rescuing girls. Looking for his abducted bride Mye. Deu falls for him, but he is focused on his lost love. Sanim is played by French-Vietnamese martial artist “Kazu” Patrick Tang.
Kee Moo (Nui “B Boy Mr. 60 Rock” Sandang) – The Mohawked member of the rescue gang. Helps to train Deu when she first joins up. Kee Moo means pig dung.
Kee Ma (Sompong “B Boy Haste” Leartvimolkasame) – The long-haired member of the rescue gang who is good pals with Kee Moo. Kee Ma means dog dung.
Kee Kwai (Boonprasert “B Boy Dman” Salangam) – The enigmatic dreadlocked member of the gang who is usually out doing stuff. Kee Kwai means buffalo dung, so we got the three dung brothers. And by now you should have a pretty heavy vocabulary in Thai.
Jaguar London (Roongtawan “Sing” Jindasing) – Jaguar’s chief enforcer, played by the female bodybuilder Roongtawan Jindasing. She has won more body building competitions than you can shake a stick at, you girly man! No offense to our actual lone female reader. You can see her official website here.
Jaguar Tokyo (Hoang Nghi) – a Scarred Jet Li-looking guy who is part of the Jaguar gang and steals women. What a nice guy!
Jaguar Bombay (David Bueno) – A red hair guy whose hair looks brighter thanks to the filters used in the film. He’s a member of the Jaguar gang and steals women. Another nice guy!

Deu is one of those drummer chicks who hangs out under her bed all day and drums all night, until she sees one of the former bandmates who dumped her and goes all psycho smashup on him. After crying in a field, Deu goes off to drink her troubles away, which makes her a target of girl snatchers, who yank her into a van. But her puking leads to her escape from the van, and she is rescued by a bearded dude named Sanim. Good thing, as suddenly there are a bunch of goons with cartoon ninja jumping spring shoes with blades on them showing up.

And, yes, they just hop on their bladed spring shoes while standing still.

So girlsnatchers operate in teams of one van for grabbing and one van filled with hopping goons in case the grabbing van goes wrong, because they want to draw as much attention as possible to the snatching of girls. Good to know.

The goons hop around and slice up stuff and if this was American they would be “X-TREME!” and drinking Mt. Dew. I don’t know what the Thai X-TREME stereotype is, but it’s probably somewhere in this sequence. Sanim counters these extreme hoppers with his own hip-hop fighting style, which I am dubbing b-boy fu.

They are also fighting in an abandoned amusement park with a decaying ferris wheel, because let’s make this weirder…

Sanim rescues Deu despite being injured, and she wakes up at his place. Not like that, you pervs! Sanim’s lair is like a warehouse, and there are two other people there besides Sanim (who is ignoring her), noisy Kee Moo and Kee Ma getting drunk.

Then a bunch of angry ruffians arrive, and Deu notices there are unconscious guys hanging from the walls! This isn’t Sanim’s lair at all, but a hangout of some kidnappers, and the drunken Kees starts brawling with the newcomers and it is action time again!

The two Kees use a drunken b-boy dancing fight style that is more than a match for the newcomer goons. Probably because the actors are b-boys and incorporated their moves into the mayraiyuth. After the fight madness (which involves parts where Deu is roped into being part of the dancing fighting) the baddies are beaten up (though we weren’t 100% sure they were baddies yet unless you read a brief plot synopsis earlier like I did)

The Kees and Sanim rescue some kidnapped girls, which turns out to be pretty much what Sanim does for a living now. But other girls were taken, including the one specific one Sanim is looking for, his fiance. Deu will join the team, with the Kees teaching her the drunken style, where she must be tied up for training because being drunk is always a disadvantage. Sanim teaches her as well, giving us a training montage! Montage montage montage.

Deu then shows up alone where some women are being held captive and has a drunken dance fight taking out a whole score of dudes and rescuing the women. She does it all dressed up all punk with big aviator shades and acting all smug, basically being cooler than cool. But Sanim is upset that she acted alone and not with the team, thinking she is a danger to herself and the others. She grabs his necklace and he freaks out, as it was the necklace his bride-to-be wore on his wedding day, but she was kidnapped. Both of the Kees have also lost family to the kidnappers, so they’ve teamed up to destroy the kidnapping ring.

The next day Deu arrives at the hangout, but the Kees are dead and a mysterious masked guy is there and beats up Deu. She loses, and wakes up at her home. When she returns to the hangout, the place is abandoned except for a note. It explains that they used her at first for bait, but then saved her when things got messy and taught her until she went against the team. There is also a fourth guy named Kee Kwai on the team, and he was masked guy as this was all a ploy to try to get rid of her for her own safety. But they should know by now Deu doesn’t do what is good for her and she tracks down Kee Kwai on the beach and challenges him to fight. If she wins, he takes her back to Sanim. She eventually does win and is taken to the church where the new hangout is.

Deu is bandaged up, and drink the friendship wine so everyone is friends. I’ll be there for you…

Plot time, as the motivation of the kidnappers is revealed. It is not the sex trade, which would be the obvious answer. Instead, the baddies are selectively stealing women with a specific smell to use for medical research, specifically to make tears with special healing powers to sell to rich foreigners. Because foreigners are evil and drink your tears. They will use Deu as bait, as she has that special smell thus her original kidnapping, but these thieves are good and manage to steal Deu in broad daylight and lose all the pursuers. Thieves…or ninjas?

Deu is tied up, wrapped in cellophane, and drugged. That would be a barrier to anyone except Jija, so Deu promptly escapes and sneaks around the underground compound. She sees that the women are drugged up until they turn pale white and their tears are collected and sold for millions of dollars as a special medicine. This sounds crazy enough to be true, even though it isn’t.

Deu manages to knock over a bunch of the chemicals even as she is recaptured, the smell drifts out of the underground cave hideout and is picked up by the Kee brothers, who I guess were wandering around the town sniffing everything. So the team comes to rescue her. The three Kees fight some of the guards while Sanim goes through the drugged and catatonic women until he finds his fiancée, who is non-responsive. Deu is rescued and helps them.

Then a giant fighter chick named Jaguar London comes out who is big enough to take on Sanim and Deu at the same time. This chick is HUGE!

Deu starts to move the fiancée out while Sanim continues to fight. The Kees are getting beaten up bad, but somehow (not shown) Sanim wins and goes with Deu and his unresponsive fiancée Mye out the back way, which is filled with lots of rickety bridges over a giant pit. All underground caves are filled with rickety bridges. The giant woman Jaguar London follows them, and it is bridge fu time!

Imagine Indiana Jones having a giant martial arts battle on that bridge he cut in half. He no nuts…he’s crazy!

The fight involves a lot of flipping and swinging. Eventually the giant girl is thrown through a bridge, but so is Sanim, and Deu grabs him with one hand, but when Mye falls Deu also grabs her. As Deu is like 90 pounds, she can’t possibly hold Sanim and Mye both. Thus, Sanim falls to his death. Yep, a main character has died. Spoiler alert!

Jaguar London grabs Mye and Deu and drags them back where the other two Jaguar bosses – Jaguar Tokyo and Jaguar Bombay, are beating up the Kees. Deu wakes up enough to wander into the middle of the beatdown zone, where she is attacked ..until memories of the previous scenes cause her to weep and drink one of her tears. The tears with those magical healing abilities which are the reason these girls are kidnapped. Lucky, that.

The tears of power heal Deu up enough she’s suddenly kicking butt again! After some brutal fighting, she kills both of the lesser Jaguars and it is rematch time with Jaguar London. This fight is the most brutal in the film, lots of hits to the point where each combatant would have died like 10 times in real life. But this isn’t real life, this is just fantasy. Caught in a landslide…

The long long fight ends in victory for Deu over Jaguar London. I am shocked!

Deu takes care of Mye, who eventually begins to wake up and gets her memories back about Sanim, and her and Deu both cry for a sad happy ending.

This film was not that bad, and I stand by that. So there! =P

Rated 8/10 (Production company, band figure, band facepaint, sassy, splashy, practice, more practice, even more practice)

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