Friday, October 28, 2005

Review: Ahimsa: Stop to Run

  • Directed by "Leo" Kitikorn Laewsirikul
  • Starring Boriwat Yuto, Teeradanai Suwanahom, Tharanya Suttabusya, Prinya Ngamwongwarn, Joni Anwar, Kiradaj Ketakinta
  • Theatrical release in Thailand on October 20, 2005

Picture your karma. How would it be embodied?

For Ahimsa, in this karmic-action-comedy-thriller, it's a guy in a red track suit, with close-cropped, dyed red hair and classic white Nikes with a red swoosh. And he's here to make Ahimsa pay for his sins.

When Ahimsa was a boy, he wasn't quite right, narrates a character who goes by the name of Einstein. His parents were at wits end, trying to figure out what to do. Medically, nothing wrong could be found. Ahimsa's dad thought the doctor was an idiot. But there was something wrong. It was that guy in the red track suit, always hanging around. But nobody but Ahimsa could see him.

Finally, they took Ahimsa to a shaman, who was able to convince Ahimsa's karma to leave him.

Then Ahimsa (Boriwat Yuto) grew up and became a DJ, playing rave parties in the rain and dropping LSD. And there's that karma (Teeradanai Suwanahom) again, big as life.

But first, after taking that hit, he's visited upon by a woman in a red dress. More on her later.

Ahimsa (alternatively transliterated as Ahingsa) and his roommate U-Kot (Prinya Ngamwongwarn) work in Einstein's after-hours rave club. Einstein (Joni Anwar) is a singularly weird character, who rides around in an electric wheelchair (even though he can walk) and wears cowboy boots and an Afro wig. He also thinks that drugs can alter time and space relationships.

Eventually, the karma guy shows up again, in a big way, bashing Ahimsa over the head with one those returnable glass water bottles, you know, the real thick ones? That had to have hurt!

He wakes up the next day, with blood on his pillow. U-kot explains that Ahimsa had passed out at the club and had to be carried home. Ahimsa visits the hospital. And there's that woman in the red dress - she's a doctor. She runs the tests, but can find nothing wrong.

Then Ahimsa starts having visions of the future. He sees his roommate getting sodomized by their drug dealer (another very weird character) and then dead in the shower. But it didn't happen. Or did it? The next day, he has a deja vu moment, complete with a little boy telling him to "watch where the fuck you're going" after he trips over the kid's trike.

He starts to have other weird visions, like the karma guy in a flame-decalled, fire-engine red 1960s Chevy Impala convertible, playing chicken with him as Ahimsa speeds towards him in his equally classic 60s Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight (both cars pure American Detroit iron leftover from the Vietnam War days). He gets into a near crash as the result of his blackouts while he has these visions, but the movie's budget wasn't so great that a classic land yacht like that could be wasted.

In another cool moment, the karma remarks that Ahimsa "hasn't suffered enough today", and proceeds to beat the living daylights out of Ahimsa. But Ahimsa can't get a lick in edgewise - the karma can't be touched.

Even releasing a cage full of birds, which is supposed to be an excellent merit-maker, does no good. Here's where Ampon Rattanawong, the comic actor who played the monkey shaman in Buppa Rahtree and also had a key role in Monrak Transistor comes in, as the bird-freedom vendor at a temple.

It turns out that Ahimsa and the doctor (Tharanya Suttabusya), who is oddly named Pattaya (the action also takes place in Pattaya and some other beachside location that I can't place) are karmically entwined. Which isn't so good, because the doctor is engaged to marry a cop (Kiradaj Ketakinta).

And Ahimsa just keeps getting deeper and deeper into trouble - shooting the sodomizing drug dealer, then a local politician (who's also the cop's brother). Now, in addition to having his karma after him all the time, he's a fugitive from the law.

Other karmas also appear. Einstein has his own karma, a long-haired guy in a Game of Death yellow track suit. And the hilarious dyed-blond U-Kot becomes a karma who torments the drug dealer.

There's a lot going for this movie. The performances are all solid, especially the karma, played by Teeradanai Suwanahom.

But there's just something ... I can't put my finger on it. Much of it seems to be color and style, just for the sake of color and style.

Director Leo Kitikorn has said he made the film for youngsters to demonstrate that they can't escape their karma, especially if they do bad things, like take LSD or kill people.

But, with a karma in red track suit, who favors a hunk of lumber to beat you over the head with, can anyone really take this message seriously?

You'd think someone with the name Ahimsa would know better.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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