Chocolate may as well have been called Autistic Daughter of Ong-bak, considering that Prachya Pinkaew’s mentally-challenged heroine isn’t just a Muay Thai ass-kicker but one who learns martial arts from studying the director’s Tony Jaa-headlined hit. Kudos, I guess, to Pinkaew for depicting a serious handicap as a latent superpower, though any progressiveness on the filmmaker’s part is offset by his portrayal of Zen (“Jija” Yanin Vismistananda) as a twitchy, screamy freak with a phobia about flies and the hair of a J-horror ghoul. Zen is the offspring of a Japanese gangster (Hiroshi Abe) and the tattooed dame (Ammara Siripong) of a mob boss (Pongpat Wachirabunjong) who forces the couple apart. When her mom becomes ill, Zen and her chubby cousin/guardian Moom (Taphon Phopwandee) decide to raise money for medical treatment by violently collecting on old debts from hoods unwilling to part with their cash. If the setup is cornball and Pinkaew remains incapable of handling straightforward drama—the director’s confidence in shooting dialogue scenes is so shaky that most expository material is conveyed via music video-ish imagery—the film at least doesn’t pretend its plot matters. Watching with the sound turned off wouldn’t diminish one’s enjoyment of Chocolate, since the only elements given any real attention are the blather-free action sequences that Pinkaew stages with vigorous lucidity. While Zen’s first two bouts of fisticuffs, in which she dispatches hordes of faceless morons in warehouses, are competent but forgettable, her later brawls are the stuff action showcases are made of, the first in a makeshift slaughterhouse featuring a bevy of inventive, tongue-in-cheek projectile meat cleaver stunts, and the second featuring Zen battling a stream of enemies on the narrow ledges of a building and elevated train tracks. Piling flips upon twirls upon flying Muay Thai elbows and knees to the head, the finale is an extended tour de force equal parts Bruce Lee, Tony Jaa, and Donkey Kong, delivering enough vicious thrills to make sitting through Chocolate‘s preceding narrative jibber-jabber more than worthwhile.
- Magnet Releasing
- 92 min
- Prachya Pinkaew
- Chukiat Sakveerakul, Nepalee Sakweerakul
- "Jija" Yanin Vismistananda, Hiroshi Abe, Ammara Siripong, Pongpat Wachirabunjong, Taphon Phopwandee
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