Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review: The Stunt

Veteran stunt coordinator Kawee Sirikhaerut and his team.

  • Directed by Sathanapong Limwongthong
  • Starring Panna Rittikrai, Kawee Sirikhaerut, Wych Kaosayananda, Prachya Pinkaew, Gary Daniels, Pangrit Sangcha, "Ant" Vatcharachai Sunthornsiri, Kecha Jaika, Nhong N.T., Thep Baanrig, Nung Pradit, Lalisa Sontirod, Nerun Sreesun, and Gary Daniels
  • Special screening on January 20, 2013 at the Lido cinema, Bangkok
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

Featuring talking-head interviews with the Thai film industry's top stunt doubles, coordinators and action directors, The Stunt is a worthy effort in giving these unheralded talents a much-needed voice.

Directed by Sathanapong Limwongthong, The Stunt pulls no punches in its depiction of the Thai action movie scene. The interviews are for the most part brutally frank, with the interviewees stating that it's difficult for Thai stuntmen because there is no guild. They also speak of a lack of unity because the scene is so fiercely competitive.

They also acknowledge the key role 2003's Ong-Bak played in jump-starting the Thai action movie scene and bringing it to the world stage.

The Stunt, which is made with support from the Department of Tourism, isn't quite a slam-dunk though. It suffers from an appalling lack of film clips, which would go far in spicing up the talking-head format. It's not that what the stunt players have to say isn't interesting, it's just that the parade of talking heads becomes dull after awhile.

The young director was quizzed about this in during the question-and-answer session after the movie's screening at the Lido, and he acknowledged it was difficult to obtain the rights from any of the major studios.

So what we're reduced to seeing are B-roll clips from such B-grade Thai action flicks as The Sanctuary and The Microchip, and there simply isn't enough to go around.

It's symbolic that a film that's so supportive of the industry is undercut by the industry itself.

Vatcharachai Sunthornsiri and his horse.

There's also the elephant that's missing from the room – Ong-Bak star Tony Jaa, the actor who did his own acrobatic, hard-hitting stunts in the rough-and-tumble "no wires, no CGI" style. While Ong-Bak director Prachya Pinkaew and Jaa's mentor and stunt choreographer Panna Ritthikrai – a hero to many of the other interviewees – are present, Jaa is noticeably absent. But really, that's okay, because it gives other folks a chance to be heard.

One of the most interesting figures is Ant Vatcharachai. He performs all kinds of stunts but specializes in horseback riding. Virtually any recent Thai movie that's involved horses has had Ant in the saddle. These include Tears of the Black Tiger and the King Naresuan epics. The interview is conducted with a corral in the background, and a horse, seemingly aware it's on camera, paces pack and forth behind Ant. Eventually, Ant saddles up and takes a ride.

One stuntwoman is interviewed: Lalisa Sontirod, who is better known as "Tik Big Brother" from her time on the Thailand version of the reality TV series. Her roles have included Kantana's epic The Edge of Empire and doubling for Princess Ubol Ratana in My Best Bodyguard.

Another major player is Suthep "Thep Baanrig" Chubsri, whose company specializes in rigging slings. Watch the closing credits for just about any Thai film, even ones that aren't necessarily "action" films, and you'll see that name scroll by.

There's also "Seng" Kawee Sirikhaerut, an industry veteran whose long list of credits includes stunt coordination on such Thailand-set Hollywood movies as The Hangover Part II and Rambo.

Other figures are Kecha Khamphakdee (Operation Dumbo Drop, The Red Eagle),  Pangrit Sangcha (Bang Rajan, Tears of the Black Tiger, Fireball), Pradit Seelum (My Best Bodyguard, The Red Eagle), Nerun Sreesun (Fireball, The Red Eagle) and Krissanapong Rachata, director of Power Kids and The Microchip.

British action star Gary Daniels also appears, and is full of praise for the professionalism, skill and bravery of Thai stunt players.

The most outspoken is director Wych Kaosayananda who's infamous for making one of the movies that's considered the worst ever, the Hollywood bomb Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever. Aware of his infamy, he doesn't hold back at all, and states flatly that there have been no decent Thai action films since Ong-Bak and that the Thai industry still has a long way to go.

Stuntwoman Lalisa Sontirod.

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  1. question is.
    is the worth watching?

    1. If you're interested in Thai action cinema, then yeah, it's worth watching. The only drawback is a lack of film clips to make things more interesting.

      The filmmakers have immediate plans for campus screenings around Thailand, and the Department of Tourism plans to present an edited version at film fests.

  2. Thanks. Is there any possibility that aforementioned documentary will be released on DVD?


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