Thursday, October 28, 2010

Inseedang-a-rama: Reviews and political views on The Red Eagle

Still lots of strands in this old duder's head about The Red Eagle (Insee Dang, อินทรีเเดง).

Heck, I've seen it twice and still haven't counted the three Wilhelm screams director Wisit Sasanatieng says he's embedded his in his film.

The much-anticipated action thriller stars Ananda Everingham in a role made famous by screen legend Mitr Chaibancha in a series of Thai action films in the 1960s, and ending in 1970 when Mitr died in a fall from a helicopter while making The Golden Eagle.

The hyped superhero movie has been met with mostly negative or mixed criticism, mainly because the ultra-violent Dark Knight-style action flick is seen as a major departure from the colorful stylizations Wisit displayed in his earlier films, Tears of the Black Tiger and Citizen Dog. It's also being assailed for its 130-minute length. And there's the ending, which only briefly shows the much-hyped shot of Ananda dangling from a helicopter ladder to complete the stunt Mitr died for. It's a teaser for a part two, The Red Eagle: War of the Deadly Psychobots, which in all likelihood will never happen because Wisit says making The Red Eagle was such a struggle, creatively and budget-wise, that he's leaving the film industry.

A Nutshell Review and critic Stefan Shih, who came to Bangkok for the October 4 premiere, has already issued his review.

Oh, and Asian Cinema – While on the Road was stirred from dormancy to review The Red Eagle. A momentous occasion.

And since the movie had its international premiere at the Pusan International Film Festival, the industry press has weighed in.

Maggie Lee of The Hollywood Reporter saw it. Here's a bit from her review:

Visual wizard and fantastical yarn-spinner Wisit Sasanatieng seems to be flying with clipped wings in directing The Red Eagle?, the anticipated remake-cum-homage to the 1960s Thai superhero action series Insee Daeng. There is not a trace of the gloriously colorful retro camp of his debut Tears of the Red Tiger nor the flights of CGI fancy in his sophomore Citizen Dog. Had Sasanatieng's name not been attached, the project may qualify as technically high-end Asian genre fare but marketing to his cinephile fans would turn converts into skeptics. Locally, Insee Daeng's cult status would prompt Thais to see Red Eagle for old time's sake.

On to Richard Kuiper's review for Variety:

A Thai superhero is reborn with middling results in The Red Eagle. Reboot of a popular 1960s pulp franchise arrives with special effects galore and a Batman-like protag burdened with the now de rigueur psychological hang-ups, but aside from a few eye-catching setpieces, there's little excitement or cinematic flair on display. Souped up for young auds by usually super-inventive stylist Wisit Sasanatieng (Tears of the Black Tiger), pic underperformed on October 7 local release, casting doubt over whether its "to be continued" tag will come to fruition. Overlong actioner has modest regional claims and much stronger ancillary prospects.

Uh, yeah. About that box-office performance. It opened at No. 2, way behind Zack Snyder's 3D Australian talking-owl cartoon, earning 5.5 million baht, with the latest Box Office Mojo figures showing earnings of around 10.8 million baht. Before The Red Eagle opened, the No. 1 had been a Thai action-comedy, Yuthlert Sippapak's Saturday Killer, which at latest count had raked in around 17.6 million baht.

Meanwhile, The Red Eagle's place in history has been the subject of political pundits, with Asian Correspondent's Siam Voices posing the view that the movie is an allegory to the current Thai political situation.

The Nation got some guy on video and had him blather on a bit about the movie. I don't think he knows what he's talking about.

Whatever. The beauty of The Red Eagle is that could represent anytime, anyplace and any particular situation in its depiction of corrupt government and business forces running roughshod over the little guys. When you can't go to the cops, who ya gonna call? Insee Dang!

A couple other strands:

  • Wisit has always been known from his interesting and unique casting choices, which started with the Columbian-Italian model Stella Malucchi as his leading lady in Tears of the Black Tiger. In addition to TV-commercial actor Jonathan Hallman, who makes his big-screen debut as the Black Devil, there's TV host, musician and writer Wannasingh Prasertkul playing the brash young police detective Chart. The Nation had a profile of him. Even Lieutenant Chart's boss in the movie is played by a newcomer – it's veteran Nation Auto Talk columnist Pattanadesh Asasappakidj.
  • Singer Burin Boonsvisut claims he was the first choice for the role of Insee Dang that was taken by Ananda Everingham. He turned it down. Instead, the former Groove Riders frontman recorded a ballad that's used as the theme for The Red Eagle.

Update: Film Business Asia's Derek Elley has his review, summing it up as a "messy Thai superhero movie [that] sledge-hammers the viewer into submission."

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