Chocolate (Thailand 2008)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 12/20/08
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Cast: Jeeja Yanin, Som Amara, cameo by Hiroshi Abe

From the creators of "Ong-Bak" (2003) and "Tom Yum Goong" (2005) comes another action packed film with a weak plot. Zen (teenage prodigy Jeeja Yanin) is the autistic daughter of a former gangster. While she's mentally and emotionally challenged, her senses and reflexes are especially keen and she learns to become a top-notch fighter by watching Tony Jaa movies (naturally). She and her adopted brother get into trouble while trying to collect money for their mom's expensive cancer treatment, which leads to a series of escalating brawls with a nasty gang boss and his countless minions. Japanese idol Hiroshi Abe shows up as Zen's estranged father and lends an air of class and refinement to the production.

As you might expect, the film is full of crazy stunts and hard hitting action. Jeeja Yanin is amazing to watch. Her movements are quick, fluid, and graceful, and her precision and efficiency are quite impressive. Unfortunately, for every jaw-dropping stunt she performs, there are 2-3 more that are spoiled by intrusive wirework or drop-frame editing. The stuntmen suffer dearly at the hands and feet of this young girl, and the credits reel shows some very serious injuries (including what appears to be someone with a broken neck). The whole autism angle makes the film uncomfortable and difficult to watch, and a lot of the drama seems forced. Let's face it - these guys are good at action, but not so good at screenwriting. It's definitely a slow starter, but it finally starts to pick up the pace and become interesting as soon as Zen decides it's time to beat the crap out of everyone. Yanin has a very promising future ahead of her - if she doesn't kill herself first. It's not quite the film I was hoping for, but it definitely satisfies a female action craving.