Review: Raging Phoenix (2009)

Starring Jeeja Yanin, Kazu Tang, Marc Hoang, Roongtawan Jindasing

Fight Choreography by Panna Rittikrai

Directed by Rashane Limtrakul

You just gotta love Panna Rittikrai. He’s one fight choreographer who is never happy with repeating himself. After the success of Chocolate no one would blame him for going back into his old bag of tricks. Panna has a really big bag, and he’s always adding more to it. For Jeeja’s second film he decided to pull off a mixture of Muay Thai and Drunken Boxing also mixed with…breakdancing! How does it come off? Pretty good, but fades as the film goes on.

Raging Phoenix is about Deu (Yanin) a reckless rocker girl who has just been kicked out of her band, and doesn’t take it too well because she has abandonment issues. She gets complete drunk and finds herself stumbling into a covered parking garage, where a group called the Jaguars attempt to kidnap her, but she is saved by Sanim (Tang) a mysterious dude who runs with three other men, all of whom have lost girlfriends and sisters to the Jaguars, who are kidnapping women for a James Bond-style plot to be revealed later. Sanim introduces her to the gang, and for whatever reason teaches her their fighting style, but she soon uses it to get into trouble, and before long the entire gang find themselves face to face with the Jaguars, who want that whole group dead…

Jeeja Yanin did a great job with Chocolate, and she does here as well, even though I didn’t feel that she was very comfortable with the drunken boxing. She does a good acting job and shows that she has a good bit of range, but in her fight sequences, at least when she’s using the drunken-style breakdancing, it seems a bit…forced. Not so for Kazu Tang, who gives a great performance as the tragic Sanim, and truthfully his fight scenes are much better, at least in my humble opinion, than Jeeja’s. He looks much more fluid and natural with the break-dancing, so much so that he practically steals the film away from Jeeja. The other actors were decent but forgettable, and the main villains weren’t memorable at all except for Jaguar Tokyo (Huang) who brings a lot of skill and menace to a small role. Roongtawan Jindasing, the woman who played the main baddie, did a good job as well, especially in her final fights with Tang and Yanin. The story is pretty good, with the exception of a few leaps of logic, like when some of the gang decide to teach Deu a lesson, which involves nearly killing her and putting her in traction for months. Also, did the bad guys really warrant a lair on par with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? I mean, really?

The fight choreography is a mixed bag the further the film goes. The first fight in an abandoned arena was good, but it only featured Tang, who did an excellent job fighting thugs who were on metal bladed stilts. The second fight that introduces the rest of the gang was also well done, and the training scenes were quite a bit of fun, but Yanin’s first fight wasn’t as good as it could have been. The choreography itself was good, but it didn’t really seem to fit her. The fights toward the end of the film stop of the B-Boy stuff at least in regards to Yanin and she does a great job here, especially her fight with the two main henchmen. Like I said, I love that Panna tries to extend himself, but it doesn’t work as well as maybe it should. The good news is that Panna is always experimenting with new ways choreograph a fight, and no matter what, at least it’s always fun to watch.

Raging Phoenix is a good sophomore effort by Yanin, who has shown that she’s a genuine star whose future continues to shine bright. Kazu Tang is able to elevate the film even further as the possible-but-not-quite love interest.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Panna experiments with his style and comes away with a mixed bag depending on who was doing it. Kazu Tang and the B-Boys did well with it, but Jeeja Yanin less so until the last two fights.

STUNTWORK: (9) The stuntmen really did a good job here. Their reactions were really well done, especially for the frentic style of fighting they had to deal with.

STAR POWER (8) Yanin shows that Chocolate was no fluke, and Kazu Tang really needs to get a film of his own. He’s got the looks and the skills to be a star in his own right.

FINAL GRADE: (8) A good film that makes the supporting cast members look better than its star until the end of the film, but when the time comes Jeeja Yanin is more than up to the task. Oh yeah, the B-boy music is strangely addicting.


  1. My main problem with this one is the plot/narrative. Exposition is just dumped in the most awkward manner, and without the amount of weight it seems to deserve. There’s a scene between two of the goodguys which starts with one saying, “hey, remember that time, when your girlfriend got kidnapped right before she was meant to marry you?” – just a couple of guys reminiscing over beers…


  2. Any word on when Prachya Pinkaew’s The Kick is going to get a US release? Also Pinkaew’s Elephant White is saitemrng on Netflix and is a good example of Hollywood having no idea what to do with a martial arts director. The plot is about a sniper taking on a Thai gang, so all of the action is from long distance. Very little martial arts action in the film.


    • I haven’t heard any word yet on when The Kick gets a US release. I would imagine it would be a Blu-Ray release, nothing theatrical. Now, if Tom Yum Goong 2 is a hit, that may actually help speed its way to the USA.


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