“I tried to come up with some cute pun on “chocolate bar” but couldn’t quite work one out.”
We couldn’t wait for this one to get an official American release, so off to Ebay we went for a copy of uncertain origin. This was something of a double-edged sword. It means we get to tell you that this is, hands down, the action heroine film of the year, with fights the like of which I haven’t seen since Yuen Wo Ping was working with Cynthia Khan in Hong Kong. However, it also means that we had to suffer the worst set of English subtitles I think we have ever seen, which appear to have been pushed enthusiastically through Babelfish several times, with feeling; this culminated in a line which will live forever in my memory. It is, and I quote the subtitle in its entirety, “Wang monkeys.” You’ll thus forgive me if the subtleties of the plot were perhaps lost on us, though by most accounts, this likely improved our enjoyment of the endeavour overall.
Zen (Vismistananda) is the autistic daughter of a Japanese gangster and a Thai woman (Siripong), who betrayed her local partner, a rival boss (Wachirabunjong), to be with her lover. When her mother gets cancer, it’s up to Zen and a chubby friend (Phobwandee) to collect on debts owed. Fortunately, Zen has a sponge-like ability to learn martial arts, be it from Tony Jaa movies on TV, or the school next door, and proves herself adept at “encouraging,” shall we say, repayments from those who are reluctant to pony up. The bad news is, this attracts the attention of her mother’s former employer, who has not forgotten the past and is unwilling to let matters lie. Which, inevitably, leads to a showdown where Zen takes on an apparently infinite line of henchmen – it’s somewhat reminiscent of Kill Bill, Volume 1, in the same way an earlier ice-house battle reminded me of The Big Boss, However, the final fight, on a series of balconies, is bone-shatteringly unique.
If Vismistananda isn’t yet quite up to the level of Jaa – there’s nothing quite like the five-minute, single shot fight scene in The Protector – she is amazingly lithe and powerful, quite belying her waif-like physique. There is some use of undercranking and wire-work that occasionally distracts from her natural talent, as much as it enhances it, and I have to wonder if the ‘autism’ plot-device was a cunning plot to cover for lack of actual actimg talent, though this angle is not played anywhere near as exploitatively as it could be. Still, if the dramatic aspects are somewhat perfunctory and uninteresting, the fight scenes more than make up for these shortcomings, and the result is quite the kick-ass action flick.