Archive for Muay Thai

Review: The Protector 2 (2013)

Posted in Jeeja Yanin, Kazu Tang, Marrese Crump, Panna Rittikrai, Tony Jaa with tags , , on March 11, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Tony Jaa, Jeeja Yanin, Pechtai Wongkamlao, Marrese Crump, RZA, Patrick Kazu Tang, Jawed Al Berni, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, Theerada Kittisiriprasert

Fight Choreography by Panna Rittikrai

Directed by Pratchya Pinkaew

It’s been well documented through various sources concerning the meltdown Tony Jaa had that occurred during the making of Ong Bak 2 and 3, and his subsequent break from filmmaking. After a time Tony Jaa returned to filmmaking with the announcement of The Protector 2, and would be reunited with his Ong Bak crew and joined by Jeeja Yanin, in a film that once again finds a group of bad guys who haven’t learned not to mess with Jaa’s elephant. A can’t-miss film, right?

Wrong. My worst fear for Tony Jaa became true.

We once again join elephant owner Kham (Jaa) who lives in a small village and takes care of Khorn, now an adult elephant. One day Kham gets a visit from a local elephant wrangler named Suchart who wants to purchase Khorn, but of course Kham refuses the money (did Suchart not know how many asses Kham had to kick to get Khorn back?!), so of course he has to kidnap Khorn, but the reason why isn’t as black and white as believed, as Kham goes after Suchart, and upon breaking into his home Kham finds that Suchart is already dead. Kham gets attacked by his two young daughters who blame him for his death, Ping Ping (Yanin) and Sue Sue (Kittisiriprasert),  and soon Kham finds himself on the run, being chased by his old friend Mark (Wongkamlao), now in Thailand on loan to Interpol, the two daughters, and men hired by gun runner LC (RZA) who have taken Khorn to bring about the assassination of the leaders of East and West Katana, who have gathered in Thailand for peace talks. Kham must evade the police, and find a way for Mark, Sue Sue and Ping Ping to believe in his innocence in time to stop LC and his goons from using a bomb-strapped Khorn to commit an action that will continue a war…

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The story here is utterly ridiculous in how Kham gets involved, and the bad guy LC makes strange decisions, and what little there is in a plot is further hampered by characters whose stories ultimately go nowhere. Jaa returns as Kham, and while he still kicks ass, there is something missing in the performance to make me care. It doesn’t get any better with LC, and the fact that the RZA is playing him, and his acting is far worse than Jaa’s, continue to bring the film down. I wish that Jeeja Yanin would be a saving grace, but she’s not in the film enough to be. I have to say that her part is the most disappointing of all. This film should have presented her and Jaa in much the same way that Supercop presented Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh, but here Yanin is a young woman whose martial arts skills are muted, and she gets nothing but beaten up the entire film, even by flunkies. Where is the girl from Raging Phoenix and Chocolate?  Yes, she is playing a different character, but using Michelle Yeoh as an example, she brought her history with her to Supercop as a badass, and Chan never had to “save” her (for the most part), but here Yanin needs Jaa to save her at every turn. They are never equals. There are only two actors here worthy of note. Petchai Wongkamlao is great in his return as Sergeant Mark, even if he isn’t as funny as the first film. He brings better acting to every scene he’s in, and he has to, as he has to prop up every scene with Jaa, and is able to do so. The other person I want to mention is Marrese Crump as Number 2. He brings a genuine imposing menace, and in truth he should have played LC.

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The fights and stunts here are really disappointing, save for two fights. The stunts are more over the top, but with that brings CGI effects and wirework, two things the first film didn’t have. I have an expectation—and I think many of you do too— of seeing Jaa effects-free, and was disappointed to see this film effects-filled. The motorcycle chase/fights are laughable in their impossibility, and for the first time in a Jaa film I constantly wondered if what I saw was real. Let’s not even get into the fight where he once again sets his feet on fire. Only this time the fire is computer-generated. Even the fight choreography of the late Panna Rittikrai was lacking of originality and energy.

The one lone bright spot is the two fights between Tony Jaa and Marrese Crump. Crump is positioned to be a star here (Okay, Marvel Studios, you have your new Blade! Get on that!) and the fight is great between the two men. Of course, this is nearly wiped out by the finale, which involves Jaa fighting RZA, whom I am sick and tired of seeing playing a martial artist when he isn’t one.

At the start of this review I stated that my worst fear for Tony Jaa came true. That fear was that during his sabbatical from film the world of martial arts film moved on without him. While he was gone The Raid raised the bar and became the new gold standard,  Jackie Chan got some of his mojo back, Scott Adkins continued to kick ass, and Donnie Yen was rocking along as well, and even Jeeja Yanin had some hits.

Can Jaa get his mojo back? I’m not sure. The next few years will tell the tale of whether he’s still the successor to Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, or if he’s simply a placeholder.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 4

A lackluster sequel with poor storytelling and laughable characters. And far too much CGI for a Tony Jaa movie. So disappointing.

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Review: Forced To Fight (2011)

Posted in Gary Daniels with tags , on October 24, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Gary Daniels, Peter Weller, Arkie Reese, Alexandra Weaver

Fight Choreography by Gary Daniels and Claudiu-Cristian Prisecaru

Directed by Jonas Quastel

Leaving the underground fight game can be hard, and in the realm of cinema, downright fatal. Many films have gone with this premise, but Forced to Fight takes a slightly different approach.

Gary Daniels stars as Shane Slavin, a hard-working man, devoted husband and father, and all around good guy. He had once been a fighter in a series of underground matches put on by the slimy Danny G (Weller), an opportunist who looks for any way he can to make a buck. Shane had gotten out and retired, but his troublemaker brother gets in too deep with Danny, and tries to get out, and after a brutal beating Shane decides to help his brother by returning to the ring and fight for Danny G. Things get complicated, as they always do, when Shane finds that the mentality that makes him a good fighter makes him a poor family man, and a series of mistakes places his family in danger. Can Shane become the good man he once was before it’s too late?

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I have to give Jonas Quastel props for a well-made film despite a low budget. The camerawork is well done, and the pacing is spot on. The turn the story takes is something different from the norm and I was happy to see Gary Daniels able to “flip the switch” from being the family man to becoming a devil-may-care fighter who is drunk on winning, and taking a beating. I was invested with his character early enough to care what happened to both him and his family. Alexandra Weaver and Arkie Reese also do a good job with playing Shane’s wife and brother, respectively. This is the first time I’ve seen Peter Weller (outside of 24) play a villain, and he is just great and charismatic as Danny G. He plays the slime ball in just the right way without going too over the top.

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The fight scenes are well done, but I would’ve liked to see the camera step back a little so we can discern the action more. The fight scenes are, of course, choreographed for mixed martial arts, which, for those who read this site, I am not a fan of on film, but it looked good, even though I wasn’t as impressed as I wanted to be.

The ending seemed a little too clean in how things end in regards to what had happened in the rest of the film, and I’m still debating whether Shane truly deserved the clean ending he got, despite what happens at the climax.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 7

A martial arts tournament film that actually has a good family drama at its center that give weight to the MMA action, and Peter Weller totally rocks it, and makes an excellent foil for Gary Daniels!

Teaser for Tony Jaa/Dolph Lundgren/Michael Jai White actioner SkinTrade!

Posted in Dolph Lundgren, Michael Jai White, Tony Jaa with tags , on March 22, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

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If you’ve been following my facebook page, I ‘ve been updating everyone about the film SkinTrade. I have no idea as to the plot, but know that Tony Jaa looks to fight both Dolph Lundgren and Michael Jai White. Now, MJW we all know, so that should be another fight I can cross off my bucket list, but Jaa versus Lundgren? I’ve never really seen Dolph’s martial arts tested (I mean REALLY tested) but I think we may see it here. This will be Tony Jaa’s first English language movie, so we’ll see. It doesn’t appear to have a large budget, but with Peter Weller and Ron Perlman on board I may be wrong. The trailer looks good enough, but with the Raid 2 coming next week, and will no doubt raise the bar again, I’m a bit worried for Tony. Word is The Protector 2 was a bit of a disappointment, and Tony was already “chasing” the first Raid film, and now he’ll have to contend trying to match Iko Uwais’s work in The Raid 2.

So the question I put to all of you: Do you prefer Tony do a large budget Hollywood film (a la Rush Hour) pairing him with an up and coming A-list talent but provides us Tony-lite action or would you rather him do a small budget American film (Like Ninja 2) that has high B-low A level talent BUT allows Tony to be Tony?

Review: Jakkalan (aka This Girl is Badass!) (2011)

Posted in Jeeja Yanin, Panna Rittikrai with tags , , on November 11, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Jeeja Yanin, Petchtai Wongkamlao, Akom Preedakul

Fight Choreography by Panna Rittikrai

Directed by Petchtai Wongkamlao

Jeeja Yanin has been hailed by many as the next Michelle Yeoh, and she may yet be. Chocolate was fantastic, and Raging Phoenix wasn’t nearly as good, but had some good fights. Now Jeeja returns with an action comedy in  Jakkalan, and I must say this wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

Jeeja stars as Jakkalan, a bicycle messenger who lives with her Uncle, an old man who owns a legit video rental store, and pines after a woman who lives in his neighborhood by helping her and her daughter for reasons to be revealed later. Jakkalan also has a childhood friend who has a crush on her, but Jakkalan has a crush on a musician who lives in her neighborhood. Of course, these are small stories built around another, which is Jakkalan’s uncaring attitude about who she delivers what to, and in this case she delivers a briefcase of cocaine to a group of local dealers, both of whom believes that the other is trying to screw them over. Jakkalan finds herself smack dab in the middle, trying to avoid getting killed while doing her job, trying to get the boy next door, and make her strange boss happy.

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As a story, Jakkalan is more of an action film than anything else. I think Jeeja does an okay job with it, but there isn’t much to her character, unlike Chocolate and Raging Phoenix. She actually isn’t a likable character, basically a teenager full of herself. Faring much better is her Uncle, and Petchai plays him as a world weary man who hides a terrible secret that’s never really resolved. I think there was a much better film in his story than Jakkalan’s. I’m not that familiar with Thai comedy, but most of it never really worked for me. The baddies were trying to be these Tarantino-odd like guys, but they came off really lame.

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The fight scenes were really disappointing. I expect so much more from Rittikrai, and it really felt by-the-numbers here, rather than trying to push his own envelope. That could be due to the lighter tone of the film compared to many of his others, but the best fight was between Jakkalan and the assassin in the school-girl out fit. They have two bouts, and both are really good. Outside of that, the stuntmen did a good job, but this film felt more like 90’s Jackie Chan than 80’s, if you get my meaning. I wasn’t impressed with the fights in this film and expected so much more from both Yanin and Rittikrai.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

Jakkalan is a disappointing comedy featuring great talents wasted in Jeeja Yanin and Panna Rittikrai. The tone of the film veers wildly all over the place. I’d suggest watching Chocolate again while waiting for Chocolate 2 and The Protector 2.

DAMN RIGHT! The Teaser for Tom Yum Goong 2 (The Protector 2) is live!!

Posted in Jeeja Yanin, Kazu Tang, Marrese Crump, Panna Rittikrai, Prachya Pinkaew, Tony Jaa with tags on July 26, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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Yes, Yes, Yes. Simply watch. Just watch. Tony Jaa is back, people! Sound off in the comments and tell me what you think!

Review: Muay Thai Warrior AKA Yamada: The Samurai of Ayothaya (2010)

Posted in Seigi Ozeki, Thanawut Kasro with tags , on July 15, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Seigi Ozeki, Thanawut Kasro, Thammaros Jaicheun, Sorapong Chatree,

Fight Choreography by Yuttana Muenvaja, Thanawut Kasro, Ramai Moriphan

Directed by Nopporn Watin

(Ed: I had a difficult time finding out who some of the actors were who played what character. For any readers who speak Thai, let me know what mistake I made and I’ll correct it)

Muay Thai Warrior tells the story of Yamada (Ozeki), a Japanese Samurai living in Ayothaya, a location within the Kingdom of Siam, where a contingent of Japanese warriors reside to help the King of Saim deal with his enemies as they had a friendship with Japan. One drunken night Yamada and his fellow samurai are ambushed by warriors wearing demon masks, and all are killed except for Yamada, who is saved by a group of badasses from the country (yeah, they always do come from there, don’t they?) led by Khaam (Kasro), who takes Yamada back to their village, where Yamada is healed by a young woman named Champa, Khaam’s sister. Yamada soon heals, and falls in love with the Ayothayan people, and even more so with the art of Muay Thai, which he combines with his Japanese swordsmanship in order to defend the people of Ayothaya and more importantly, finding the Japanese traitors who ambushed him and silence them lest their betrayal shatter the peace between Ayothaya and Japan…

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The storyline is actually fairly strong, even though I wish more time had been spent between Yamada and Khaam. There is talk later in the film about their friendship, but with the exception of a couple of scenes I never really got the feeling that their friendship was “earned”. Speaking of which, Khaam needed to get his own damn movie, ‘cause Thanawut Kasro was all kinds of badass. His look, with that crazy moustache and mohawk, was just chilling. The other actors did a fine job, but I found the Japanese characters were just stock characters, and offered nothing to the narrative except as cackling bad guys. The story moves at a good pace, but I never really felt any particular emotion for any of the characters one way or the other, as no other characters were in “danger” except for the two principles.

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The fights were also a source of disappointment, but not for the normal reasons. The choreography itself was okay, but screamed for Panna Rittikrai to do them. The actors and stuntmen could do more than what they were given, but did well with what they had. The real failing that drove me insane was the overuse and poor quality of the CGI blood scenes. They were terrible, and looked like something out of a PS2 game. Either do it right or just use real blood and a good makeup artist. This is a practice that just needs to stop in films like this. The CGI crappy blood effects took me out of every fight they are used in, which is bad because the fights in question are the two biggest set pieces of the film. It was unnecessary and ruined otherwise decent fight choreography.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 7

Muay Thai Warrior has a decent story and fair fight scenes that are just enough for me to recommend it, but the CGI blood scenes dropped my score considerably.

You can purchase this film now from Wellgo Entertainment here.

NEXT: Wellgo Entertainment slices through with The Assassin’s Blade