Thursday, April 16, 2009

Review: 5 Minute War

  • Directed by Achira Nokthet
  • Starring Sattawat Sethakorn, Panada Wongpoodee, Teerawut Hiranwattanangkroon, Theerawat Hiranwattanangkroon
  • Premiered in December 2008 at the first Pai International Film and Animation Festival; also in competition at the seventh Human Rights Film Festival in Donostia-San Sebastian, April 23 to 30, 2009; reviewed on screener DVD
  • Rating: 3/5

In 5 Minute War, a man in a yellow track suit severely beats a woman in a red dress.

Merely coincidental or not, it's difficult not to watch 5 Minute War without seeing some symbolism of Thailand's political scene, which is divided by factions of Bangkok's urban elite (yellow) and the largely rural working class (red).

And given that there's a pause after skirmishes in central Bangkok between the red shirts and the forces of the government (which was ushered to power by the yellow mob), the time seems apt to review this 28-minute short from Thailand-based Benetone Films.

The story is simple: Twin boys (Teerawut and Theerawat Hiranwattanangkroon) are compelled to enter the boxing ring and beat the snot out of each other, or else their young mother (Panada Wongpoodee) -- the lady in red -- will be killed by the man in yellow (Sattawat Sethakorn).

The short is a showcase by first-time director Achira Nokthet for Benetone Films, a company that primarily makes television commercials and provides services to foreign film productions.

At the center of 5 Minute War is a 10-minute Steadicam tracking shot -- a dizzying sequence that moves around the boxing ring, the primary attraction of an underground club for gambling and prostitution, as people mill about waiting for the main bout. There's also stylized lighting -- the kind that makes everything a sickly but cool green and highlights that red dress. And there's lots of good-looking fake blood, running out of the nose and cuts on the face. Other technical specs -- clear sound and a decent score -- show the competence of the production.

The actual fight by the boys isn't a large component -- they throw a few knee-kicks and roundhouse punches -- but don't expect to be seeing Ong-Bak 2-scale martial arts, or even Power Kids-style beat downs.

Actually, the fighting between the mother and her brutal ex-boyfriend is more frightening, fierce and bloody.

Hey, that could be more symbolism. But you'll have to catch 5 Minute War at a festival screening somewhere or many online someday to figure it out.

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(Many thanks to Rachwin at Benetone Films for the screener DVD!)

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