aka 더 킥 aka วอนโดนเตะ!!
Story by Prachya Pinkaew
Screenplay by Lee Jong-suk Lee
Directed by Prachya Pinkaew
Thai and Korean co-production The Kick shot on people’s radar for two reasons: Director Prachya Pinkaew, and Jija Yanin having a supporting role in the film. That’s all that was reported, and for the longest time it was hard to tell what kind of role Jija even had in the flick. Well, time has passed, and now The Kick is available on DVD and we can see Jija has a substantial supporting role in the last 2/3rds of the flick and participates in several fight scenes. There is also plenty of other action from the Korean actors, but the film does drag at points due to pacing and humor issues. It is far from Prachya Pinkaew’s best work. It’s almost another Jakkalan, though it does give us an interesting Korean/Thai hybrid film, something I don’t think there are too many examples of.
Though I thought I wouldn’t care about the Korean family, they began to grow on me (except for the young kid!) and even though they spend a good amount of time yelling at each other, they also come together to deal with bigger threats. Each family member has a different martial arts move skill, and the fights jump from solo to various pairings to group fighting. Unfortunately due to the amount of characters we rotate through the scenes quickly when all hell is breaking loose. The fight scenes in the last 20 minutes are great, but they also make the prior 90 minutes look terrible. I wish it had been more consistent on the choreography. In fact, I’d probably suggest just skipping until the end for most casual fans and people who don’t like putting up with nonsense.
Prachya Pinkaew has become a household name in martial arts film fan circles, with Ong-Bak, Tom-Yum-Goong, and Chocolate under his belt, and several upcoming films that look to be awesome as well. Several of the stars are members of the Korean Tigers tae kwon do group.
Moon is a tae kwon do champion from a long line of tae kwon do masters. He’s married another champion, and keeps the tradition alive by teaching his three children the sport. Of course, they have dreams of their own, dreams that must be pushed aside for Moon’s obsession with tae kwon do, itself stemming from his disappointment at coming in second place at a championship match years ago. The disappointment is even a major reason he moved to Thailand.
Tae kwon do is so integrated into their lives, that they use it for everything. Soon cooks with martial techniques, Tae Yang uses the moves to help his dancing as he aspires to be in a boy band, Tae Mi uses the moves to be a better soccer player. I’m sure the young kid Tae Poong does something as well, but what he usually did was play video games about defusing bombs (plot point!) and headbutting people.
This family life is about to get interesting when the entire family randomly gets involved in interrupting the theft of valuable Thai artifact the Kris of Kings (a kris is an asymmetrical dagger or sword) by some jerk named Seok Du (Lee Kwan-hun). Legend says that whoever has it will rule the world. We know this legend is true because the previous ruler of the world donated it. Just kidding! The kris is sometimes called the Kris of Kingdoms in the very next sentence. This isn’t a subtitle problem as the people are delivering the lines in English.
After being hailed heroes by Thailand, Seok Du plots revenge against the family. The kids are hidden away at the zoo with their “uncle” Mum (Petchtai Wongkamlao), who just happens to have a hot niece named Wawa who is Jija Yanin. Despite this massive collection of martial artists, Seok Du has a bajillion goons working for him, and they manage to kidnap the youngest kid, Tae Poong. Oddly enough, the family doesn’t see this as a good thing, and agrees to steal the Kris of Kings again in exchange for the young kid’s life. But Seok Du isn’t about to let the family off that easily, and the kids and Wawa aren’t going to take this standing down and butts will be kicked.
The finale is a whole series of fights at the zoo, some are pretty well set up (particularly a fight scene with Tae Yang on top of cages involving a bunch of ceiling fans and Jija beating up lots of people with a stick.) There is a bit of an odd dichotomy as there are plenty of humor mixed in, some of which doesn’t match tonally with what just happened in a prior scene as they rotate through the fights. A bit more connectiveness of the feelings between scenes would had made things much more harmonious. But there is still plenty of good things going on. Tae Yang’s dance fighting is almost interesting enough to justify another B-boy martial arts flick down the line.
The Kick delivers the fight sequences we need, but there is a bit of padding before the prize. The jarring changes in ton during some of the scenes is a bit unsettling and could have been done better, and the earlier fight scenes lack imagination, but the choreography in many of the later fight scenes is pretty nice. The heroes are not invincible and much of the family takes a lot of punishment in addition to dealing it out. If anything, Jija gets the least amount of abuse given her way. My main regret is watching The Kick right after I saw The Raid, and you can imagine how that colored my reception of the fights here. I will point out a good scene where Tae Yang spin kicks an entire circle of bad guys one by one in one continuous take. But it is not enough, and we’ve been spoiled for far too long with films that deliver for the entire running time. Patience may be a virtue, but if you’re nonvirtuous and liberal with the fast-forward button you’ll end up with some extra free time to go walk in the park or something.
All in all, The Kick may be worth checking out if you are a fan of the Thai martial arts films recently, and will enjoy seeing a different take on the same type of film. But be warned it is slow going until it gets really good. For a casual fan, I’d stay away unless you are a big enough Thai action fan you venture outside the Jeeja Yanin and Tony Jaa realm and keep coming back. But remember where the remote is for the slow parts.
Rated 3/10 (Shock!, Kris, Scar tissue that I wish you saw)
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