Chocolate (Review)


Directed by Prachya Pinkaew

Thailand has been making films for a long time. Sadly, their films have not gained much interest outside their home country until recently, which is a shame as some of their older efforts (like Insee Thong for example) are worth checking out. Tony Jaa has helped put modern Thai films on the map. His martial arts films and the stunt therein have given lots of fame to the industry. Many people are unaware of the man behind Tony Jaa, who is also the man behind this film. Director Prachya Pinkaew was Tony Jaa’s mentor, directing him in Ong Bak, and now has a new, female prodigy, the star of this film Yanin “Jeeja” Wismistananda. Director Prachya Pinkaew has been involved in making movies in Thailand for years, but until his recent fame with Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong, most of them haven’t left Thailand ever, now many can be found in VCD format. In addition, some of them can be found in this movie, being watched by Zen in between her own fights.

Setting out to make the film feel different from the start, Zen is autistic, so does not act like your normal fighting chick. But she has the ability to learn to copy movements, which makes her a natural fighter. The storyline of the film works to get Zen from one giant set-piece to another in order to have many well-choreographed battles. This works rather well, and towards the end you just sit back and watch as the stunts get wilder and the choreography gets more intricate. The fight choreographer was Panna Rittikrai, also of Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong fame. Prachya Pinkaew said he went in the autistic direction because Jeeja Wismistananda didn’t have any sex appeal (see Wise Kwai’s Blog.) She has no sex appeal like zebras have no stripes.

Chocolate is in a mix of English and Japanese, but is mainly Thai, so subtitles are on. As the film is not widely available in the US yet, there are bootlegs with terrible subs out there, so be warned. They are not necessary to enjoy the action, but help you follow a bit of the plot. Luckily, I had a real version, so the language barrier was no problem, not that no subtitles has ever been a problem here on TarsTarkas.NET.

Zen (Yanin “Jeeja” Vismistananda)- Autistic daughter, has muscle memory (once she sees it, she can do it, like that girl on Heroes) can catch almost anything, afraid of flies. Loves her mother very much. Jeeja did all the stunts herself, and was even kicked in the eye (requiring her to wear an eyepatch for a bit!)
Zin (Ammara “Zom” Siripong) – Zen’s Mother and lover of Masashi, former lover of No. 8. A famous actress and singer in her home country, Ammara Siripong was a torch carrier when the Olympic flame went through Thailand in 2008, and is an avid supporter of marine-life conservation.
Moom (Taphon Phopwandee) – Zen’s brother, a former street orphan adopted by Zin. Full name is Mangmoom. Does street performances with Zen in order to earn extra money for Zin’s illness. Finds the book filled with names that owe Zin money.
Masashi (Hiroshi Abe) – Zen’s gangster absentee father. Not absentee by choice. Forced out of Thailand by No. 8 after he took Zin as his lover, and forbidden to see her or his daughter under threat of death. Returns to Thailand when Zin and Zen get into trouble. Has a fascination with imperfection.
No. 8 (Pongpat Wachirabunjong) – Thai mob boss (is the Thai mob known by an special name like Yakuza or Triads?) and former lover of Zin. Number 8 lost his beloved to Masashi, so shot off his own toe to teach himself a lesson. That lesson was “Don’t shoot yourself in the foot!” Dresses pretty retro. Eight is a lucky number in Asian culture, just look at how many Chinese restaurants have 8 in their name (or 18 or 88).
Priscilla (Dechawut Chuntakaro) – Transvestite apprentice to No. 8. Brutal enforcer and jealous of Zin and No. 8’s affection for Zin. But still sympathetic enough to give some money to Moom and Zen when they are street performing. Dechawut “Day” Chuntakaro is a cabaret diva.

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