aka ต้มยำกุ้ง aka The Protector
Written by Prachya Pinkaew, Kongdej Jaturanrasamee, Napalee, Piyaros Thongdee, and Joe Wannapin
Directed by Prachya Pinkaew
“Where’s my elephant?” – Kham, like 1000 times.
“Where’s my elephant?” demanded the small man with the big confidence. The goons stood and smirked, surely this small man was small and thus no threat. The next thing they remember is waking up in the hospital, having been kicked through the door. Thus the adventure begins as Tony Jaa searches for his missing elephants and people get the crap beat out of them from Thailand to Australia. Along the way there is a complicated plot about illegal food smugglers and amoral businesses and gang rivalries, but the plot is the least of our worries. Because Tom-Yum-Goong (or The Protector if you’re watching the American version) is the film that features a 4 minute long single take of Tony Jaa fighting his way up several flights of stairs with goons all the way. It is, quite simply, one of the most amazing fight sequences in cinema.
Tom-Yum-Goong is the followup to Ong Bak, the film that put Tony Jaa and Prachya Pinkaew on the international map. Jaa and Pinkaew would have on set troubles in all subsequent films, with the two feuding about funding and unexplained absences. Ong Bak 2, Ong Bak 3, and Tom Yum Goong 2 would all have various production problems and delays, with causes ranging from the aforementioned arguing to political strife to disastrous flooding to a marriage and a pregnancy!
Whatever future events would be, the fact is that everything aligned to make Tom-Yum-Goong an amazing action film. The choreography is amazing, Tony Jaa pulls off a huge assortment of stunts and once he gets going, will fight what amounts to a ridiculous amount of opponents on his quest to rescue his elephants. We don’t even see the beginning shot, we just see the bodyguard fly into the room to signify that Kham and begun to beat everyone up. That was an editing choice, as the initial punches were filmed, but it works so much better to have the sudden crash. Tom-Yum-Goong is filled with creativity, from the fight up the stairway that just goes on and on to the fights in a flooded temple that is visually stunning. The villains have at their disposal a near limitless amount of goons on extreme sports equipment, from inline skates to dirt bikes, all of which come riding in to beat the tar out of Kham, and all of which fail miserably. Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai even developed a new style of Muay Thai they called Muay Koshasan to represent an elephant fighting style. The attention to little details that have a big impact to make the film look unique is all part of the charm.
Based on the novel by Win Lyovarin
Written and directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang
Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s Headshot follows a hitman who awakens from a coma to find he is seeing everything upside down. It’s called a metaphor, one that Headshot has the main character explain to everyone in case no one bothered to get the symbolism. Headshot is a stylish but plodding action noir, as hitman Tul is drawn back into the world of being a hired gun, and we get background information that explains where he came from.
The strengths of Headshot is the unexpected directions the story goes, the fact it suddenly becomes a road movie during a carjacking scene, the characters who jump in and out of the tale and when they reappear, it’s almost as if they are completely different characters. Headshot is brilliant but hindered by inconsistent decisions on whether to trust the audience to figure anything out.
On that, I’m especially insulted by Headshot explaining that seeing everything upside down is a metaphor for seeing everything a new way. Thanks, reporter from the International Journal of Duh! It’s also not that surprising when a character is mysteriously dead in a movie where there are hit men and rival factions. But don’t fret, you get told twice what really happened, in case you missed it the first time. Headshot should have just let us figure it out, trusted that we knew enough of the genre to make the connections. Yes, it is safe to go off the reservations, and Headshot does make those attempts, but those are the times when we need to get a bit of information.
Directed by Yuthlert Sippapak
The first film in Yuthlert Sippapak’s Killer Trilogy (Mue Puen 3-Pak), Friday Killer was released second (after Saturday Killer), and as of this writing Sunday Killer is still MIA, Sippapak having released three other films in the meanwhile. Friday Killer has a better central story, but it is bogged down by too many side stories, giving Saturday Killer a slight edge overall in my eyes. Both films are recommended, Saturday Killer being more comedic and romance focused, while Friday Killer is more of a bleak drama with a pessimistic outlook on life.
Friday Killer opens with the old hitman being interviewed scene from Saturday Killer, cementing the connection between the two parts, before jumping to flashback. The rest of this scene plays out later in the film, though most of the action is by peripheral characters and not the father and daughter that is the focus. Most of the action scenes are well done, and Sippapak makes creative use of different decorative environments for the gun battles. The abandoned construction sites and empty deserts help to enforce the bleakness of the central story line.
Unfortunately, there were no subtitles on the dvd we got, but at TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles!
aka มือปืน ดาว พระ เสาร์
Written and directed by Yuthlert Sippapak
A mix of violence, love, and raunchy physical comedy, Saturday Killer takes a potpourri approach to story telling, and the resulting mixture was pleasing to my sensory buds. A group of characters with flaws that range from minor to completely cracked,
Saturday Killer is the first released (though second shot) film in director Yuthlert Sippapak’s Killer Trilogy, which consists of the romance story Saturday Killer, the drama Friday Killer, and the comedy Sunday Killer (which hasn’t seen the light of day and I do not know if it ever will!) But don’t fret, we can still hastily assemble a trilogy, I’ll just take the film Headshot and cram it in as entry #3. After all, Headshot features a bald assassin who wants to get out of the business and has Sirin Horwang! But despite Headshot appearing in many festivals and getting praise, I liked Saturday Killer the best of this trio. So let’s champion this mofo!
Yuthlert Sippapak is probably best known in the West for Killer Tattoo and Buppah Rahtree films, but he has made a good deal of films that mash up genres and reference his prior work (or other Thai cinema.) Furthering this, both Saturday Killer and Friday Killer share an action sequence where characters from both interact. Saturday Killer slips easily from comedy to drama to romance to action, sometimes doing all of them in the same scene, and yet nothing feels out of place. Sippapak’s degree in interior design makes itself known in the set designs, which feel like real places and become parts of the movie. The action sequence in an abandoned under construction housing subdivision, where there is nothing but rows of unfinished basements, offers a background not seen before. Tee Rifle’s apartment has his row of mannequin heads each displaying a different wig of increasing ridiculousness, each the many faces Tee Rifle displays to the world. Christ’s modern luxury condo is clean and modern, and sparsely filled, as empty as her life is without love. Politicians sit in expensive office towers, sitting high above the people. Characters going to kill said politicians are angelic and epic, with flowing breeze and strong silhouettes.
Saturday Killer mashes up sexual performance problems, ruthless killing, family obligations, and ill-fated romance and doesn’t miss a beat. Sure, much of the scenes are ridiculous, and some of the humor is more forced, but the majority of what is onscreen entertains, the characters and their goals and obstacles thrown together in their destined conflicts. The result is a unique viewing experience that gives you things you didn’t know you wanted in an assassin film.