[Medium to Well-Done Spoilers]
I’ve developed a strange affinity for martial arts films, especially foreign movies.
Enter Raging Phoenix.
This movie caught my eye because it was about a girl (Deu) who was nearly kidnapped by human traffickers, but then got away and decided to learn martial arts to get revenge on them. Other than that, I had no idea what the movie was about.
Well, I was pretty surprised.
It turns out that the basis for the style of martial arts that they do is getting really, really drunk. It’s actually a lot cooler than it sounds. And it sort of makes sense. Anyway, it’s a made up style, but it’s a combination of Muay Thai and break dancing. (Yeah, you read that right.) Deu finds out exactly why the kidnappers wanted her (for the human pheromone market. …Yeah, you read that right, too.) and she decides to offer herself as bait so they can find their hideout. This is when the real action started.
So, I actually liked this movie quite a lot. The style of martial arts was interesting and different, to say the least. I’m not sure how it would work in the real world, but in this story is was effective and it looked cool. The fighting sequences were much better than a lot of the ones that I’ve seen in American made fight movies. The acting was also pretty good, and I liked the general layout of the story. It was funny, but deep and thought provoking. Some of the visuals were gorgeous. And even though you need to read the subtitles (unless you speak Thai, of course), it isn’t dialogue heavy and you can sit back and enjoy the fighting scenes.
However, sometimes I didn’t know whether this was trying to be a comedy movie or an action movie. There were some pretty hilarious scenes and some great one-liners. Three of the main characters were also named “pigshit,” “dogshit,” and “bullshit.” No, I’m not joking. I think that was one of the problems – there’d be something really funny in a serious scene, and I wasn’t sure if they were trying to be funny or not. I think they were, but it did sort of jolt me out of the movie a little bit.
Another problem I had was the pacing. The first half of the movie was pretty awesome, but it was only halfway through that we found out what the real plot was. It was like the entire first hour was exposition, which we all know isn’t a good way to get the story up and running. Over and above that, though, was the fact that I actually liked the exposition better than the real plot line. The real story was a little hokey. (Human pheromones on the black market…really???)
Lastly was the ending. I won’t give it away, but I will warn you: if you like happy endings, tread carefully if you want to watch this movie. It felt like it was leading up to one thing the entire movie, and then all of a sudden that choice is completely taken away. It wasn’t the most satisfying ending, but it could have been worse, I guess.
I’d watch this movie again just for the visuals during the first half, plus the fighting sequences. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes foreign films or martial arts movies. Even if you just like good action movies, this might keep you entertained.
Also, here’s a funny story…I was debating on whether I wanted to watch this one or a movie called Chocolate. It turns out that the girl who plays Deu (Jeeja Yanin) actually plays the main character in Chocolate. How crazy is that! I’ve read around a bit and a lot of people are saying that Chocolate is a lot better. Guess that’s up next for me to watch (and review)!