Review by: Monkey Fist
SCUM Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I’ve been an avid fan of action flicks ever since I was first introduced to Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury and Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master back in the late 70s. So when Thai film director Prachya Pinkaew released Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong back in the 2003 and 2005 respectively, I was immediately blown away, to say the least! The brutal action sequences executed by his stunt team were top-notch and were definitely comparable, if not better than some of the Hong Kong kungfu films I’d seen years earlier.
Those familiar with Pinkaew’s martial arts extravaganzas like Ong Bak, will know what to expect from his 2008 flick, Chocolate. Japanese mobster Masashi (Hiroshi Abe) and his Thai partner and girlfriend, Zin (Ammara Siripong), narrowly escape death at the hands of underworld boss Number 8 (Pongpat Wachirabunjong) and his bodyguard Priscilla (Sirimongkol Iamthuam), but the scuffle has unexpected consequences – Masashi’s superiors order him to return to Japan, and Zin finds herself pregnant with his child. Zin raises their daughter, Zen (Yanin Vismitananda) on her own.
Zen’s autistic but is blessed with lightning reflexes and a photographic memory. She grows up watching the students practising martial arts next door and Muay Thai movies and absorbs the fighting techniques. One of the few things that helps bring Zen out of her inner world is chocolate (and hence the title of the film). When Zin is diagnosed with cancer, the family cannot afford the chemotherapy treatment that could save her life until her friend Moom (Taphon Phopwandee) comes up with a plan – plenty of businesses still owe Zin money from her days as an outlaw, and with Zen as a candy-fuelled enforcer, he might be able to get them to pay up and raise the funds for Zin’s medical bills.
The script is mediocre and requires some patience to sit through the first half an hour of the film. Once the 30 minute mark arrives, however, the viewer is treated to one of the most amazing displays of martial arts by a female protagonist in the history of action cinema. Seriously. Virtually all of the remaining 50 minutes is devoted to high quality choreography and bone-crunching manoeuvres. Yanin really shines with her fluid moves and hard strikes. Early in the film, her kicks and punches start off rather basic, but get increasingly more intricate and climaxes during the jaw-dropping finale that lasts a whopping 20 minutes. Personally, I felt that she has catapulted herself into the upper echelon of female action stars with this single film. Unfortunately, her follow-up films Raging Phoenix and This Girl Is Bad-Ass don’t quite match up to the standards set in this installment. In conclusion, Chocolate’s a definite must-watch for all action-heads out there!