Thursday, February 10, 2005

Review: Bangkok Loco

  • Directed by Phornchai Hongrathanaphorn
  • Starring Krissida Terrance, Nountaka Warawanitchanoun, Niphon Chaisirikul
  • Released in Thailand cinemas in 2004, DVD release in February 2005 (English subtitles, Region 3)
  • Rating: 3/5

Hoping to be for Thai rock drumming what Crossroads was for bubblegum blues guitar or Purple Rain was for bubblegum funk, Bangkok Loco involves a face-off between the God Drumming School and the Demon Drumming School.

But first, the chief contestant for the God drummers (Krissida Terrance) must elude the police because he's wanted for murder.

The comedy starts off promising, showing a shift back to the early 1980s from the present day with a montage of television sets and the content on the screen.

When it reaches the '80s, the first character on the screen is Narongrit Tosa-nga, better known as Khun In from The Overture, practicing his ranad-ek. But he can't concentrate, because his next-door neighbor in the incredibly funky apartment building is rock drummer Bae, who's flailing about, drumming on his set with jazzy abandon. Suddenly, blood and gore are everywhere and he's drumming with knifes, not drumsticks.

He comes out of his musical reverie and sees the horror - the horror - of what he's done, and takes off running around the incredibly fab and funky neighborhood while the opening credits are shown in various forms - on license plates, on signs, on the name tags of Siamese twin pad Thai vendors, etc. Loads of great visuals and energy. Oh, and there's an opening text role, a la Star Wars, spouting off some philosophical nonsense.

Bae is running to tell his lifelong friend, a cute girl named Don (Nountaka Warawanitchanoun), the story of how he found himself chopping a body into hamburger. Don, also a drummer, is in a rock band, and her bandmates don't believe Bae and want to call the police.

Bae takes off running again. And then the police show up, about a dozen boys in brown led by the Inspector Black Ears (surely a nod to Prince Chatrichalerm's Gunman, which had a police inspector nicknamed the Black Hand). All the cops somehow appear out of a little mini car. Black Ears (Niphon Chaisirikul), who has black ears, also has a sycophantic guy resting on his shoulder. Also, there's a small dog named Dumbass, who is told to track the criminals. The dog salutes and is off, running through the fab, funky neighborhood only to end up right next door to the crime scene. Hah. Later, for no apparent reason, they show the dog having intercourse with a Pekinese, with the penetration pixelated out.

Meanwhile, Bae and Don explain to the bandmates, Meow and Ohh (Nophadal Tavitumnusin and Pakapat Bunsomtom) that they studied at God Drumming School together as children. Flashback to a temple scene with an old drumming monk teaching the children on a set cobbled together from traditional drums. It's in black and white except for the children's yellow-black striped Bruce Lee Game of Death jumpsuits, which also reference Kill Bill.

The first God-Demon drumming duel is shown, with the Demon school represented by a guy who claims to be Ringo Starr. This is where the film started to lose me. Ringo as the Demon drummer? Not ready, steady Ringo. How about John Bonham or Keith Moon? Oh well, those guys I guess aren't as iconic as Ringo in his Beatles haircut and threads.

Somewhere in here, there's the first and best of three songs, a cool funk, drum-laden track, performed in a drained swimming pool.

Star Krissida Terrance, also known as Noi, is also the leader of an indie band called Pru. But this is the first time I've heard his singing voice. He was in Iron Pussy, but his real voice was not used. I must say, I don't like his singing. I find it too nasally and airy. The other two songs, one of which has lyrics that consist of La la la la la la la la la la, you get the idea, are pure saccarine. Stomach churning but cute.

The movie gets worse and worse, though it retains a really wonderful, vivid style throughout. Produced by RS Film, an arm of record company RS Promotions, it's best to look at this as one long music video. Or, best not look at all.

The story becomes incomprehensible as Bae and Don continue to elude the authorities and move closer and closer to their date with the Demon Drummer. The jokes get worse and worse. Inspector Black Ears is an annoyance, repeatedly trying to kick down doors that open to the outside. There is a very silly sex and drumming scene with Bae and Don. Also, while on the run, Bae meets up with a Thaksin Shinawatra lookalike and in a very Forrest Gump kind of way influences Thaksin to start the Thai Rak Thai party and become a mobile phone mogul.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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