Saturday, December 24, 2011

Review: The Kick


  • Directed by Prachya Pinkaew
  • Starring Jo Jae-Hyeon, Ye Ji-Won, Na Tae-Joo, Kim Kyong-Suk, Petthai Wongkumlao, Yanin Vismitananda
  • Released in Thai cinemas on December 22, 2011; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5

Koreans play nice and rough with Thais in the bi-national co-production The Kick (วอนโดนเตะ!!), in which cultural icons of both countries are trotted out for display. There's a dancing elephant, Thai and Korean food, Korean and Thai music, national costumes and plenty of demonstrations of the respective martial arts, taekwondo and Muay Thai.

Co-produced by South Korea's CJ Venture Investment and veteran Thai producer Sa-nga Chatchairungruang's Bangkokfilm Studio, The Kick aims to capture in movie form the feel of the South Korean stage shows like Jump and Cookin' Nanta, cultural tableaux that have proven popular with Thai tourists. Cookin' Nanta has even established itself in its own theater in Bangkok.

Directed by Prachya Pinkaew with the screenplay and action choreography by Panna Rittikrai, The Kick is about a South Korean couple, both former national taekwondo competitors. They have moved to Bangkok, where dad (Jo Jae-Hyun) runs a martial-arts dojo and the strong-willed, domineering mother (Ye Ji-won) operates a Korean restaurant. They have three children, a teenage boy (Na Tae-Joo), a teen daughter (Kim Kyong-Suk) and a little boy.

And, of course, everything they do is done with taekwondo flair. Mom cooks with martial-arts moves and rips a live octopus in half. And the elder son waits on tables with dramatic sweeping motions. Later, he does some dance moves, incorporating taekwondo kicks and flips. Daughter does a 360-degree somersault to kick a soccer ball.

Together, they also do taekwondo demonstrations at Bangkok shopping malls.

As is usual for action movies from the pair of writer-directors who brought us such movies as Ong-Bak and Chocolate, the plot involves something being stolen. In this case, the MacGuffin is an old dagger that once belonged to a Siamese king.

The Korean family, in their rattletrap little Daihatsu van, get in the way of black-suited gangsters who are stealing the dagger. There's a little car chase involving the tiny van and a big black Mercedes, and then the teenage son and daughter fight the thugs in the Airport Link train station. The head bad guy (Lee Gwan Hoon) comes away with his face scarred, giving him another reason to sneer wickedly.

Having retrieved the artifact knife, the Koreans are hailed as heroes and it's arranged that they will perform at the official unveiling of a museum exhibition.


Meanwhile, masked thugs come calling at the family restaurant, and mom and dad decide they should send the kids away. So they call their oldest Thai friend, a comic-relief zookeeper named Mum, played by Petthai "Mum Jokmok" Wongkumlao. Mum takes the kids out to his place in the countryside, where he has an elephant, a pet monitor lizard and some monkeys.

Here, finally, is where they meet Mum's niece, Wahwah, played by none other than Chocolate heroine Jeeja Yanin. She's introduced while practicing Muay Thai moves in a rippling stream and is spied on by the teenage guy. Later, she spars with the guy and his sister, beating the guy and calling it a draw with the girl. Turns out she's a national Muay Thai champion.

There's a subplot involving the father and the elder son. Dad suffered an emasculating defeat in his Olympics days and he's pressuring the boy to train hard in taekwondo and redeem the family's honor. But the son really wants to be a back-up dancer for K-pop bands, and he's kept that a secret from his parents. Another family dynamic is that the mother and the daughter are actually portrayed as stronger martial artists than the men. So the henpecked hubby has another reason to push No. 1 son to try harder.

Eventually, the gangsters find the kids. They put up a good fight, but the little boy ends up kidnapped.

The older brother and Jeeja go on the run, with Jeeja helping the guy with his dance tryout or something. Junior passes the audition with flying colors, not only doing taekwondo with K-pop moves, but, inspired by Jeeja, adds a few Muay Thai elbow thrusts as well.

Meanwhile, to get the little boy back, the family will have to steal the dagger during their demonstration at the museum. This involves teaching Mum a few martial-arts moves so he can join the taekwondo troupe.

There's a fight in a riverside warehouse, and eventually the action moves to Mum's zoo where each character gets their moment to fight, even the little boy.

The mother goes to the kitchen, where she uses pots and pans as weapons. Later, she stumbles into a pit of CGI crocodiles.

In a nifty innovation by Panna, the elder son jumps on top of some empty animal cages where some low-hanging ceiling fans are going around and around. There's an endless parade of masked henchmen, and they all get knocked to the straw-covered floor by the spinning fan blades. The guy even grabs one from the ceiling and wields it as a weapon.

Jeeja grabs a tree branch and uses it to wallop bad guys. Later, she and the girl team up to take on a long-legged female gangster (Kim Yi-Roo), and their fight takes them to the glass roof of a greenhouse.

And dad somehow ends up wired with a bomb that someone will have to defuse.

A niggling problem with pan-Asian productions involving a cast of different nationalities is language. In Thailand, the Korean actors lines are dubbed, with the same voiceover artists that dub all the movies. I guess when the movie showed in Korea, the Thai actors were dubbed, and if this movie is ever picked up for the English-speaking world, everyone will be dubbed in the grand tradition of grindhouse kung-fu flicks.

The story is okay, but as is the case with these types of movies, the plot is secondary to the action, and there's plenty of it. Action that is.

Since Oldboy, it's become a cliche in Thai movies involving Koreans that a live octopus get involved. Don't worry though, unlike Oldboy, the octopus is CGI. No cephalopods were harmed in the making of this movie.

Some stuntmen, however, were harmed.

The obligatory blooper reel accompanies the end credits, and shows several stunt guys being injured by hard strikes by the Korean actors. One is taken away in an ambulance.


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4 comments:

  1. all the movies from the Pra and Pin have sucked ever since they released Chocolate.

    Pin latest movie, Bangkok Knockout is the best yet.


    i have mixed feeling Tom Yum Goong 2 might not even be good:/

    ReplyDelete
  2. THE DAGGER IS CALLED A KERIS... A MALAY WEAPON!.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love Kim Yi-roo, that super hot, long-legged actress that acts as a pretty hot villain /gangster in this movie The Kick.
    I hope i could meet her somehow and have a simple date with.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Correction, keris is an indonesian weapon..

    ReplyDelete

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