aka ต้มยำกุ้ง 2 aka The Protector 2 2013 Written by Eakisit Thairaat
Directed by Prachya Pinkaew
An elephant gets stolen again, causing Tony Jaa to kick lots of people again. This time, the stunts are bigger and 3D driven, but also more CGI enhanced and less realistic, which is a shame. There is no long tracking shot like in Tom Yum Goong, and the more memorable fights are remembered because of their gimmicks, not because of their awesomeness. But that sounds like I’m bagging on Tom Yum Goong 2 a bit hard, it was still some good fun, even if it can’t live up to it’s predecessor. And let’s face it, there aren’t many martial arts films that can.
Tom Yum Goong 2 went into production in August 2011. It was delayed by horrible Thailand floods, Tony Jaa doing weird things, production infighting, Jeeja’s unplanned pregnancy, and a bunch of other problems too boring to reiterate. It’s more of a minor miracle the film was completed at all, and isn’t terrible. But the money and the problems changed a few things for the worse, and didn’t give anything in return.
The fights are now 3D, so there is less continual choreography and long shots and more 3D-ish effects, which sort of makes them worse. The made-for-3Dness makes the CGI additions a lot more noticeable, especially when you aren’t watching in 3D. But even if I was, there wasn’t that much going on that made me wish I was watching in 3D. 3D doesn’t make the kicks any harder, nor does it make the tracking shots suddenly several minutes long. All we get is a few random CGI items floating across the screen. The most creative shots they didn’t even use outside of one part, which was a POV facecam as Kham was running from a bunch of goons.
Kham (Tony Jaa) – Kham is back and he’s still got his elephant, but now the elephant Korn is in danger…oh, wait, that happened last time. So Kham now has to beat up a lot of people…oh, wait, that happened last time! Eh, just enjoy him kicking butt!
Ping Pong (“Jeeja” Yanin Vismistananda) – Ping Pong and her sister Sue-sue (Theerada Kittiseriprasert) walk in on Kham standing over the body of their murdered uncle, and immediately begin attacking him and chase him down. Only after an examination of the corpse does Ping Pong realize their mistake, but by then Sue-sue has been killed by Number 02. Ping Pong uses drugged needles and agility to defeat larger foes.
Mr. LC (RZA) – Leader of an underground fighting club that does all sorts of bad things, including gun running and getting involved in international assassination attempts to foster dictatorial ambitions of warlords. He never loses, so don’t tell him he lost. His group is ranked, but he made sure to tattoo Number 00 on his head so we all know he’s the best that ever was.
Sergeant Mark (Petchtai Wongkamlao) – Kham’s old friend from Australia is in Thailand helping out with all the diplomatic things going on, and gets involved with Kham’s latest elephant kidnapping party.
Number 02 (Marrese Crump) – Largely silent fighter who wants to be the best fighter there ever was, and will punch whoever and whatever it takes to get there. Murders with a unique series of close blows. Has a complicated honor system, but is still pretty evil and loyal to Mr. LC. Marrese Crump was RZA’s stunt double on The Man with the Iron Fists, and got promoted to costar here.
Number 20 (Yayaying Rhatha Phongam) – One of Mr. LC’s fighters, loyal to him because he saved her during a sexual assault and trained her in fighting so she could get revenge on her attackers.
aka ต้มยำกุ้ง aka The Protector 2005 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.
Kham (Tony Jaa) – He’s just a dude looking for his elephants.
Sergeant Mark (Petchtai Wongkamlao) – A Thai cop in Australia who is tangled in not only the Kham beating everyone up mess, but also a corrupt cop mess and a political killings mess. It’s very messy to be Sergeant Mark!
Pla (Bongkoj Khongmalai) – A student turned prostitute who is forced to replay the debt of her dead relative or else she’ll be killed or worse. Helps Kham when she can. Is caught up in some political assassin intrigue, but is largely in the film for eye candy, hence her featured scene where she’s rubbing mud all over herself while wearing little clothing. Bongkoj Khongmalai is also in Dangerous Flowers.
Madame Rose (Xing Jin) – Ascending to the head of a criminal empire is hard when even your family is against you. Luckily for Madame Rose, she’s planned ahead, and just might have a few less relatives to deal with. Think of all the money she’ll save on greeting cards! It’s almost enough to buy some black market elephants…
Korn (???) – Baby elephant from a Jatubaht warrior family that’s stolen along with his father, Por Yai. Kham sets out to save them from their dark fate.
Media for the upcoming Tom Yum Goong 2 has begun appearing online. First up was a first trailer, followed by the above-embedded second teaser. In addition, the Tom Yum Goong 2 facebook page has been posting character posters, which are posted below. There are posters for Tony Jaa as Kham, Jija Yanin as Pingping (who uses flying needles), Petchai Wongkamlao as Sgt. Mark, Ying Ratha as No. 20, RZA as Mr. LC, and Marrese Crump as No. II. The stunts look amazing, and I hope this troubled production pulls together and turns into something magical. Really pulling for this one.
aka ฝนตกขึ้นฟ้า 2011 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.
Headshot throws in some great cinematography and sets, my favorite is the gun battle in the dark forest in the rain, making the chaos of violence even more unpredictable and dangerous.
Tul (Nopachai Chaiyanam as Nopporn Chaiyanam) – Former cop turned reluctant assassin after he’s framed for corruption and murder when he tries to take down a corrupt minster. Shot during a botched hit, he awkaens to see everything upside down. Now his attempt to escape both his former lives are catching up to him.
Rin (Sirin Horwang) – Driver of a car Tul manages to repeatedly carjack while being chased by men with guns. Forms an interesting bond with Tul, who always seems to be at a threashold of lifestyle choices. Sirin Horwang is also in the assassin film Saturday Killer.
Joy / Tiwa (Chanokporn Sayoungkul) – Seductive woman who Tul meets and instantly beds, only to find murdered the next morning. But it was all a setup, and Joy (real name Tiwa) thought it was just a joke. Feeling guilty, she takes Tul in after he is released and begins a relationship with him.
Dr. Sruang Santiprasoert (Kiat Punpiputt as Krerkkiat Punpiputt) – A physician who writes despondent philosophical papers under the name The Demon. He believes that evil genes dominate and evil people can take over if no one stops them. Thus he starts a secret assassination ring to take out bad people. But that just causes more problems.
aka หมาแก่อันตราย 2011 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!
Pae Thasai (Suthep Po-ngam) – Recently released from jail, killer Pae Thasai is nicknamed Pae Uzi (for his weapon of choice) or “The Eagle of Chantaburi” (because everyone needs a bird nickname!) He gets involved in drama before he even leaves the front area of the prison! Pae returns to his killer lifestyle while absorbing the knowledge he has a daughter he never knew, who is now tracking him due to mistaken identity.
Dao (Ploy Jindachote) – Police officer and unknowing daughter of Pae, who instead believes he killed her stepfather and spends the film hunting him down. Dao dresses as a tough guy demeanor – black leather clothes, motorcycle – despite being filled with doubts.
Petch (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk) – Dao’s photographer girlfriend who has a childlike and innocent demeanor, especially when compared to Dao’s more serious and driven tone. Petch keeps her grounded in reality, without her Dao would just get absorbed in her job and quest.
aka มือปืน ดาว พระ เสาร์ 2010 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.
Tee Rifle (Choosak Iamsook) – The Phoenix of Bang Pra Ma. Constantly changing wigs and outfits, because Tee Rifle is known to disguise himself each day. Which is odd, because he deals with the same people each day, and no one seems to notice he’s dressed totally different each time.
Christ (Sirin Horwang) – Hot dance instructor who is estranged from her political leader father. Christ nevertheless vows revenge when he’s murdered. Becomes enamoured with Tee Rifle before realizing just who he is.
Mei (Pitchanart Sakakorn) – Christ’s connected friend who can get guns and information about who killed her father. Also helps her with the undercover work to get close.