martial arts movies

Chocolate (ช็อคโกแลต)
Made in: Thailand
Language: Thai, Japanese
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Starring: Jeeja Yanin, Ammara Siripong, Hiroshi Abe, Pongpat Wachirabunjong, Taphon Phopwandee
Year: 2008

Synopsis: Trouble begins when a high-profile yakuza member named Masashi (Hiroshi Abe) crosses a Thai crime boss known as No. 8 (Pongpat Wachirabunjong). Mashashi then runs off with the dangerous and alluring Zin (Ammara Siripong), who was No. 8's girlfriend and right-hand woman.

Masashi is forced to return to Japan, but Zin remains in Thailand and goes into hiding. She gives birth to their daughter, Zen (Jeeja Yanin), who turns out to be functionally autistic. Although lacking most basic social skills, she develops lightning fast reflexes and somehow has the ability to learn any physical skill simply through observation. And as luck would have it, she becomes obsessed with watching martial arts movies and becomes an exceptional fighter.

She also develops a taste for chocolate treats and an irrational fear of flies.

When Zen becomes a teenager, her mother is diagnosed with cancer and requires expensive treatment. Zen's childhood friend, a portly boy named Mangmoom (Taphon Phopwandee), finds an old logbook belonging to Zin. It contains the names of crooked business owners who owe her money, and Mangmoon goes to work at hatching a scheme.

He brings Zen to visit the business owners in an attempt to collect payment, which is only successful after Zen is forced to beat the crap out of the hired thugs protecting the seedy bosses.

Although Zen's exploits result in a steady cashflow that helps her mother, it also draws the attention of the vengeful No. 8 and his legion of drag-queen gunmen. All of this results in a final showdown filled with endless fight sequences!

The Good: Chocolate is definitely exciting, and the concept of an autistic heroine is pretty original. Jeeja Yanin is an amazing stuntwoman/martial artist, and the four year long project helmed by director Prachya Prinkaew definitely makes this film one of the better ones from this genre.

The plot is simple but coherent, the actors are all good, and the action sequences are very well constructed. They have a creativity on par with some of Jackie Chan's stuff, and should be satisfying enough for fans of martial arts movies.

The fight scenes are pretty lengthy as well, and while watching them you might wonder why they look so authentic. That's because Jeeja Yanin and her costars are getting kicked and punched in the face for real half the time!

The Bad: Some of the fight scenes get a little too ridiculous at times. And it's unfortunate that Zen's fight with another autistic teen is too short.

Who would like this movie: Chocolate is for you if you love martial arts movies and ridiculous action. It's short and highly entertaining. Although it's not the greatest martial arts movies ever made, it follows a relatively predictable plot line and contains a lot of typical characters from past films of similar genres.

For instance, there's the fat buddy. What is it with martial arts movies always having some fat guy as a major character? And why is he always portrayed as a doofus or dumbass? I don't get it.

Another thing is a villain who wears sunglasses that never come off. I have no idea what that's all about either.Anyway, despite all that, Chocolate is definitely above average and made by people who know what they're doing.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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