Saturday, 13 May 2006

The Tiger Blade (2005)

Tiger Blade is Thailand’s answer to Mission: Impossible

Like horror movies, your response to The Tiger Blade will be in the danger zone should you watch this flick alone in the cinema. Instead, grab your friends for the movie outing, because its trashiness can only be properly appreciated in a large giggling crowd.

The bare basics of the plot – and they remain at the bare basics even as the movie plays out – involve the events following a prison break by a former guerrilla army commander. Fighting for the independence of his subjugated ethnic nation in neighbouring Burma, the commander teams up with government turncoats, crooked politicians, psychotic gangsters, and a bullet-proof crime lord to pull off the biggest heist in Thailand. Trying to foil his plans is super agent Yos (Atsadawut Luengsuntorn), his leading lady Dao (Phimonrat Phisarayabud) and team-mates from his high tech, top secret special agency.

Since the crime lord and his entire gang are fitted with mystical tattoos and headbands conferring immunity to firearms (surely the Boxer Rebellion people should sue for copyright infringement here?), and even though this is an action movie, Yos decides not to fight hand-to-hand with them, but wastes half an hour of the movie trying to obtain the mystical “Metal Talisman Sword”. This rusty sword may or may not be the Tiger Blade of the title. Due to the deliciously bad subtitling, I had the impression that Tiger Blade is the nickname of super agent Yos. But back to the story. the Tiger Blade makes all of 3 short appearances in the movie, 2 of them anti-climatic, truncated, and unimpressive fights occurring in the middle of the film instead of the final fight scenes.

That’s not to say The Tiger Blade isn’t a good action movie. The movie feels as though director Siripanwaraporn drafted the fight sequences first, then wrote the script around them. As a result, you will feel that there are fights and street or road chases every 5 minutes. You might want to bring a stopwatch to time this, and win some bets with your friends (that’s why I suggested bringing them along).

My biggest annoyance with the fight scenes are the obvious toning down and self-censorship – despite the liberal use of guns, bombs and knives, there is not a single drop of blood on screen. Since the film is already rated M18 due to a sexual assault scene, I demand blood, gore, and decapitations! The fights are choreographed nicely, but one has the urge to scream at the director to hire better stuntwomen for the fight scenes. Or at least cough up money to get Tony Jaa into a wig to perform the fight sequences for the female characters. The chase sequences were serviceable, but I had the impression one of them was a re-creation of the Bangkok street chase from Ong Bak, shot for shot.

The cast is a little wooden, but more than sufficient for the demands of the B-movie script. Yos’s elite team comes across as mostly one-note characters whose deficiency is all the more pronounced outside the fight scenes. The sole exception is Annan Bunnak as the devastatingly witty and fat cop with the code name of “Redbeard”. The villains, though, are brilliantly insane in the typical Bond villain/henchmen manner, their entrances announced with a title card and flashback to their pasts, and well, they just look so much more interesting than the good guys. I suspect they had more fun, too.

The Tiger Blade, despite its solid B-movie status and flaws, should entertain easily. It has almost non-stop action, occasional comic humour, captivating villains, and a good looking lead actor.

First published at incinemas on 18 May 2006

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