Tom yum goong (2005)
Thailand / Thai
A young fighter named Kham must go to Australia to retrieve his stolen elephant. With the help of a Thai-born Australian detective, Kham must take on all comers, including a gang led by an evil woman and her two deadly bodyguards.
the best action movie of the year
Had the opportunity to watch Tom Yum Goong at a local cinema here in
Bangkok on opening night. Expectations were high, and the movie
fulfilled them in both good and bad.
The action was some of the best caught on film (do they still use
film?) that I have ever seen. Panom "Ja" Yeerum again showed that with
his background of Muay Thai, gymnastics and stuntman work, he can
deliver action scenes that are graceful and brutal at the same time,
and will have the audience picking up their jaws from the floor at
times. They don't use gimmicks like strings or special FX, so
everything you see him do is stuff he really does. Except maybe one
flying knee where he literally flew about 5 meters into the guy so he
must have been launched off something.
However, as good as the action was, the obvious comparison would be to
Ong Bak (same lead, same director). And as amazing as TYG's action
scenes were, they didn't have the raw power that Ong Bak delivered. I
think this may be because of different stuntmen - in Ong Bak, a lot of
the people that got beaten up were probably amateur Thai stuntmen or
retired muay thai dudes (scene in cave, for example) who don't mind
taking a very heavy kick or punch to make a few Baht and be in a movie.
So the impacts were very hard and very real in Ong Bak, and it made the
action that much more "in-your-face". In TYG, due to the action taking
place in Australia and the higher production values, the stuntmen
didn't seem to get beaten up as badly. Sure, it was still better than
any other action movie besides Ong Bak, but not quite as raw and
Then... the plot. The plot has already been criticized by many, and
obviously it is full of holes, unintentional humor (unless there really
is an English-language news channel in Australia where the newscaster
has a strong Thai accent?) and so on. But it was nowhere near as bad as
Ong Bak. Ong Bak really is a "fast forward to the action scenes" type
of movie, whereas Tom Yum Goong is a watchable movie in its entirety.
The first 15 minutes have barely any action at all, but the elephant
scenes and the beauty of rural Thailand were beautifully shot and the
actors did a surprisingly good job - both Panom and the guy who played
his father. It seems that Panom's acting classes have paid off. Now if
only he can learn passable English, he'll really have a chance of
becoming the next big thing in Martial Arts action movies.
The (intentional) comic relief was much better than in Ong Bak - Mum
Jok Mok plays a Thai policeman in Sydney. How he got to be Sergeant
there, we'll never know, but he has a few funny lines - most of which
are much funnier to Thais or people who know Thai culture than to the
international audience. Like the ".... oh, oh, oh - and Laos!" line.
More laughs came from cameos like the Jackie Chan lookalike at the
airport and Sek Loso drinking M150 on the street in Sydney. Not so much
product placement as an inside joke ("go inter") for the Thai audience.
Getting the audience to cheer for the hero in an action movie obviously
requires a nasty villain or a group of villains. Tom Yum Goong does
well in this regard as well - both the Thai mobsters and especially
their bosses in the Asian mafia in Sydney are an interesting, suitably
detestable bunch. Also their "bodyguards", from the Capoeira guy to the
three huge Caucasians in the end, are very good opponents for Panom
"Ja" to beat up on. Furthermore, having the motivator be elephants
(respected animals, and to Kham, family members) instead of a stolen
head of a Buddha statue (like in Ong Bak) works much better, especially
for non-Thai audiences. Good acting by the baby elephant in one early
scene in the movie, by the way! Deserving of an Animal Oscar.
To sum up, Tom Yum Goong has a decent plot, a good cast with better
acting than was to be expected, good cinematography, and of course,
plenty of cracking, beautifully choreographed action that will not fail
to impress any Martial Arts action movie enthusiast.
Highlights: Kham learning how to fight the Capoeira guy in a very well
choreographed scene, and the bone-crunching extravaganza that was like
Kill Bill Vol. 1's restaurant scene without the swords.
An excellent achievement in its genre. A whole lot of fun. 9/10.
|Nr of disks/tapes:||1|
|Storage device:||Divx 4|