Thursday, July 31, 2014

Chocolate, "Rain Man" meets "Kill Bill"

Wow!  From Thailand comes the best martial arts movie of the past 20 years.  Where "Rain Man" gave us an autistic protagonist who could count cards, 2008's "Chocolate" gives us an autistic protagonist skilled in the martial arts and samurai swordsmanship.  The tag line which opens this film is as follows, "A special needs girl...with a special kick some a**."  Stitches, compound fractures, concussions, broken noses, spine injuries, etc., not necessarily in the plot, but the downfall of many actor, extra, and stuntman during the filming.  No harnesses, CGI, stop-motion filming, all real martial arts.
The plot: Zin (Ammara Siripong) and Masashi (Hiroshi Abe) are lovers.  Masashi is a Japanese crime lord who is the rival of a Thai crime boss.  Zin works for the Thai one, and breaks away from him to save Masashi from being gunned down.  Now on the run from the Thai, she sends Masashi back to Japan when she realizes that she is pregnant with Zen (Jee Ja Yanin, pictured above).  Zen is born, and is diagnosed autistic.  Former enforcer and drug runner in the Thai gang, Zin becomes a devoted mother in a culture with no need for a special needs child.  Living in a nice house with all the money she earned, Zin must move to a slummier abode when her former boss finds her and cuts off her toe.  Things get worse when Zin develops terminal cancer and begins to deteriorate in front of Zen's eyes.  Moom (Taphon Phopwandee), Zin's nephew, moves in with them and he and Zen earn money with their street act.  Autistic Zen has amazing coordination and concentration and can catch anything thrown at her.
The money is not coming in fast enough to pay Zin's chemotherapy bills.  Moom finds Zin's notebook of all the Thais who owe her money.  Him and Zen attempt to collect and are met with hostility (see above photo).  Under attack, Zen, who has watched thousands of hours of martial arts movies, then goes to work.  She repels the attacks, usually by disposing of 20 or 30 gang thugs.  After collecting from a lumber yard boss, an ice house owner, and a butcher in a slaughterhouse, Zen probably disposes of 80 attackers, and collects the money for her mom's treatment.  Unbeknownst to her mom, Zen and Moom are driving the Thai boss' allies out of business, so Zin's former boss goes after her, Moom and Zen.  Close to death, Zin needs a way to protect Zen and Moom, and beckons her former lover, Masashi, to return.     
An epic final battle will occur with all the above mentioned players.  I lost count, but there had to be 200 casualties in this film.  In addition to the carnage, the movie has some of the most heartbreaking scenes one can imagine.  When autistic Zen, who does not cope with change, sees her mom's hair falling out because of cancer treatment, her reaction will yank at your heartstrings.  If Dustin Hoffman's portrayal of autistic Raymond impressed the heck out of you, Jee Ja Yanin's depiction on Zen will do the same.  

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