Release Date: February 6th, 2009 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Prachya Pinkaew Actors: Yanin Mitananda, Hiroshi Abe, Pongpat Wachirabunjong, Ammara Siripong, Taphon Phopwandee
he looks sweet and innocent, but she’s incredibly deadly. She’s also mentally unbalanced. This combination is certainly unique, but it makes for a slow-moving plot, annoying switches in tone, nonsensical dialogue, and unlikely resolutions. However, the action scenes are intriguing, starting simply and building up to use dangerous props and treacherous locations. As evidenced from the almost-mandatory outtakes during the closing credits, the stunts were no joke – almost everyone involved was hurt, and talented star Yanin Mitananda takes brutal beatings on several occasions.
Masashi, a highly skilled Yakuza member, loves things containing imperfections. His wife Zin doesn’t seem to have any; except that the two are forced apart (in Romeo and Juliet fashion) because of her rival gang’s hatred of the Yakuza. Zin eventually has a child named Zen (Yanin Mitananda, or JeeJa Yanin) with some interesting defects. She has superhuman reflexes, but can barely communicate due to apparent autism. She spends most of her time watching kung-fu movies, and miraculously learns all the techniques she needs to fight (bringing into question the notion of theory over practice). Not surprisingly, one of the action movies she watches is “Ong-bak” – also directed by Prachya Pinkaew. Her friend Mike (Mangmoom, which supposedly translates to Mike) helps collect money for the family by turning Zen into a sideshow freak, performing on the streets.
When Zen discovers a book containing lists of old gang connections that owed money to her ailing mother, Mike joins her on a mission to recover funds for the dying woman’s medical bills. Each stop puts Zin’s skills to the test, forcing her to exercise her martial arts wizardry to the fullest and demonstrate the futility of keeping indebted money away from a seemingly fragile, autistic warrior woman. Humorously, Mike’s cowardice is also on display.
The start of “Chocolate” includes too many slow motion scenes, most of which are not enhanced in any way by the effect, and flashbacks of melodramatic sentimentalities. It’s difficult to follow the backstory and annoying to wait for the action. At one point, there’s even a bizarre 3D animation sequence thrown in (using graphics to mimic a traditional 2D look). This attempt at injecting extra style just adds to the oddness of combining too much drama into a film that should have focused solely on martial arts combat.
When “Chocolate” does arrive at the action, it’s worth the wait; Zin slips through the cracks, slides into crevices, knife fights in a butcher factory, and makes use of random props such as tables, chairs, couches, and more. The locations for the scraps are even more exhilarating. The brawls find their way into confined spaces, rooftops, and outside a motel, literally – daringly clashing on balconies, ledges, and the metal staircases and electric signs that hang from the building. The story may get in the way of some decently strung together ass-kicking showdowns, but the amazing combat locations and fast-paced fighting styles are still exquisite. And when the mobsters bring in a twitching, convulsing, mentally challenged martial artist of their own to challenge Zin, the creativity is fully realized.
– Mike Massie