Starring Dan Chupong, Nantawut Boonrupsup, Nisachon Tuamsoongnern, Kessarin Ektawakul, Chatchapol Kultsiriwuthichai. Directed by Panna Ritikrai. (2014, 90 min). Well Go USA
On one hand, Vengeance of an Assassin is a histrionic, sloppy, slapped-together mess with ludicrous action and narrative gaps wider than the Grand Canyon (without a doubt, its story is an afterthought). Nearly every performance makes Nicholas Cage look like the poster child for subtlety, and the special effects are downright laughable. Then there are the numerous gunfights, which grow increasingly ridiculous as the film goes on, like a late scene where people convulse in a hail of gunfire even though nobody’s actually aiming at them, making us think we‘re in the hands of amateurs.
On the other hand, despite the mostly “serious” tone, I can’t help but shake the feeling much of the ridiculousness is intentional. That same dumb gunfight is actually brilliantly executed in one long continuous shot that stretches for several minutes, a virtual ballet of guns, blood and fire. It’s so well choreographed that we assume those behind the camera have their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks when it comes to logistics.
I don’t know much about director Panna Ritikrai (he of Ong-Bak fame; Vengeance of an Assassin was his last film before passing away), but it’s immediately obvious everything takes a backseat to the ample martial arts scenes, even when they have nothing to do with the plot (such as the over-the-top ‘soccer’ sequence which opens the film). Such scenes are as brutal and jaw-dropping as any other film you’d care to name. Even when taking place atop a CG-rendered commuter train, these guys look like they‘re really hitting each other. Speaking of which, the entire train sequence is so over-the-top, phony and outrageous that one can’t help but think this film is nearly as self-aware as Sharknado.
The story, when the film even bothers to address it, has Thee, the son of two murdered parents (whom we later learn were agents trying to bring down a ruthless crime operation). Later, with virtually no transition, Thee himself (as well as his younger brother) is a virtual, one-man killing machine, taking out dozens of thugs trying to protect the daughter of a government official. Thee’s apparently indestructible, too…during one of many violent encounters with the enemy, he’s thoroughly impaled, yet is back and ready for more action within a few days.
So yeah, Vengeance of an Assassin is utterly ridiculous, and if you’re hung-up on plausibility, you’ll absolutely hate it. But if you’re one of the few able to see through its supposed ineptitude and embrace its uninhibited exuberance, this movie is a hell of a lot of fun.