The follow on to The Protector (there given a glowing review by Boman), once again somebody has had a large enough break from sanity to steal an elephant from Tony Jaa. But instead of a woman and an old man (who were totally evil and deserved it), the bad guy this time is RZA (thereby negating one of Boman's "double bonus" points he gave the first film) and his crew of bloodthirsty pit fighters straight out of Bloodsport. Violence and acupuncture wielding pixie-girls ensue.
A young martial artist's quest to prove Tai Chi is a true martial art takes him down a dark path when his temple is under threat of being torn down, and a mysterious man offers him large sums of money to participate in underground, high-risk fighting matches.
Korean pop star Rain plays a ninja in a high-budget version of an 80s ninja movie. Hits every trope you've come to expect: fights in burning houses, betrayal by an entire foot clan, a student/master duel; you name it, this movie's got it. It's incredibly predictable in terms of plot, and the final twist is laughably simple and easy to forecast. This is a very, very dumb movie. And it was one of my favorite movies to come out in 2009.
Another Tanked Matinee classic. In his breakout role, Tony Jaa plays Ting, a muay Thai monk in a small village with a patron god named Ong Bak, which is represented by a golden statue in a temple. A con man steals its head to sell on the black market, and Ting goes to get it back, punching everybody in the process. With brutal martial arts, really impressive free-running, and lots of eye-popping stunts, there is a lot in this movie to make it an easy recommendation. It was the movie that made the world forget about Enter the Dragon's style of chop sockey (as much as we love that movie).
The Life of the Party
Forget strings, forget the paddle ball slapping WOOCHAW sound effects, and forget weaksauce character development. THIS is a martial arts movie that stands proudly with appeal outside its genre. There is tons of explosive action, plot development, and actual nuance. This is a great example of a filmmaking team making great decisions with their money. Example: they could have done a lackluster car chase like some Jackie Chan movies tend to do, or they could make what could be argued to be the best rickshaw chase of all time. I will leave you to determine which course they picked. The parkour and choreography is acrobatic (this, it definitely has in common with Jackie Chan). It's so well done, that they actually do replays in the film for the same trick. It is silly, but demonstrates that Jaa is actually performing as opposed to it being a trick of the camera. I really don't want to ruin the jaw-dropping aspect to some of the stunts, because a lot of them are shockingly jarring. Suffice it to say, if you saw Jaa's follow up The Protector, you know what you're in for. Cinematic, interesting, varied, talented, and lightning fast martial arts and a lot of people getting kicked through doors.
Problems one through thirty; the fucking lead girl's voice. It is like Gilbert Gottfried the Thai woman. I like her character development and she is an important character to the story, but she sounds like Ellen Degeneres with a goddamned cold. Other than that, the plot may seem kindof stretched, but it is still well put together, thoughtful, meaningful, and engrossing. In a lot of martial arts movies, the acting sucks. Not so much in this one. That is fairly uncommon. This film doesn't have a ton of flaws unless people getting elbowed all up in the face offends you. Or you hate EXPLOSIVE RICKSHAW ACTION!!!
The Vibe: Man-Cave, Large Party, Casual Gathering
This is the type of movie you can root for the entire way. A naive monk is forced to fight a whole bunch of self-admitted evil people in tons of interesting locations in tons of interesting ways. That is pretty cut and dried, and they run with it. The villains are very bad, and they all eventually get punched in the face. The movie gets that part right and then does a whole slurry of other ambitious choices right. Tony Jaa is really, really talented. It's a quality experience to cheer for. I guarantee your party will agree.
+ Explosive muay Thai!
+ Explosive parkour!
+ Explosive rickshaws!
- Holy god please girl stop talking! It feels like a screwdrive in my ear!
- Some of the special effects are actually extra-special effects. You'll know. But it won't distract you.
- The villain uses his vibrator to talk. Yep.
- A rickshaw is decommissioned
- Someone gets knocked out
- Hard mode: take a shot when Ting has a fight people bet on
A young Tony Jaa with nothing to lose (except a couple elephants) and everything to prove (by punching people through doors) sets out on a course of revenge to beat up an old woman and elderly man, who I promise are evil and deserve it. Its Thai name is Tom Yum Goong after the restaurant in the movie; The Protector I guess just means protector of elephants? The plot is kindof lost in translation, but the martial arts are not. Let me stress; this is one of our favorite martial arts movies. I'm pretty sure most of the extras died of elbow-impact-related injuries. No wires, no bullshit, nothing but brutal 8-points muay-in-the-big-city mayhem for the right around 90 minutes it runs. Also, the soundtrack was by the RZA. Bonus! And he doesn't show up in the movie. Double Bonus!
The Life of the Party
The action in this movie is mindbending and brutal. This is a Baa-Ram-Ewe and Magnolia distribution (much like Chocolate, another one we love) that followed right on the heels of Tony Jaa's mainstream breakout Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior. It follows in the same vein; crushing blows, flowery fight scenes, and a body count that looks like Thai River City Ransom. It is silly, nonsensical fun, the choreography is lightning fast, and (unlike Ong Bak), the environments are varied and spectacular. The last fight scene in particular may be my favorite. We lovingly refer to it as the House of 1000 Broken Limbs scene. There is another scene that is the longest no-cut fight scene in all of movie history, so it has that going for it. Oh, and Tony Jaa doesn't open a door once in the whole movie. He only goes into closed rooms by kicking people through the door. Seriously. He does it like eight times.
This movie is not for everyone, even some martial arts fans. If you like chop sockey silliness and the paddle-slapping sound effects they used, this is like Saving Private Ryan of flowery martial arts movies. The impacts feel real and totally make you cringe. A plus for some. Not as much for others. Secondarily, the story is worthless. It's pretty much an intro cutscene before someone gets kicked through a door, and it doesn't really stop after that. At the end at the big reveal, you'll probably scratch your head and wonder why it matters, but then Tony Jaa breaks all the men with his elbows and you forget that the story kindof sucks.
The Vibe: Man-Cave, Group Experience
This is a movie that demands to be cheered at. It is like Cirque du Soleil of Muay Thai. The fights are nuts, the enemies rival video game characters in how EXTREEEEEEEEEME they are (you will cry about how literal that is in one of the first fights), and it never lets go of the viewer's attention. Some may call this ADD entertainment. I call it excellent beer-chugging entertainment. Put this one on for your guy friends or your raucous party demanding to be entertained by an acrobatic cacophony of punches. It will punch you through a door.
+ And Knees
+ Oh my, that is a huge guy, what is he, like seven foot fourteen?
- Subtitles (but so few actual lines of dialogue that you may not notice)
- Awful story (I mean seriously, they have the most ill-advised 3D sequence ever)
Drinking Game Suggestions
Drink 1 when they would probably have gone to the hospital
Drink 2 when someone probably died from that impact
Chug heartily when someone in the room cringes verbally
Hard Mode: Take a shot every time every time Tony Jaa uses a person to enter a room
Jack Burton is your average truck-drivin’ man who seems to always find himself in the strangest of circumstances. While trying to collect on a debt from his good friend he stumbles upon a kidnapping involving his good friend’s fiancée. This escalates very quickly into uncovering Chinese gang warfare in the heart of San Francisco and an ancient evil named David Lo Pan. The film quickly escalates into a martial arts comedy unlike anything you have ever seen. You may say is it even better than My Name is Bruce; this film is the one of the best things to come out of the 80’s and a real treat.
Kung Fu vs. Steampunk! That’s all you really need to know!
...Oh, okay, guess we can go a little more in-depth with the plot synopsis. The titular Tai Chi 0 is a young man known as “The Freak,” whose strange deformity gives him supernatural fighting prowess, but is slowly killing him. Freak’s only hope for survival is to study the art of “internal kung fu,” a technique known only by one small village, which just happens to have fallen under the ruthless gaze of the British East India Company and its steam-powered death machines.
Detective Yutaka Daimon, with the help of his transforming robot brother Zaborgar, fight against the evil Sigma organization. Sigma is on a quest to harvest the DNA of prominent businessmen in order to create their most powerful robotic weapon yet…..