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Tom-Yum-Goong : Can You Stomach It?  (Prachya Pinkaew)

 

Sorradithep Supachanya                             

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Watching Tom Yam Goong movie already feels like seeing a two-hour videogame. The hero, Kam (Tony Jaa), embarks on an incredibly simple mission (in this case, rescue two stolen elephants). The search takes him to Sydney where he and his new friend, a comical Thai Australian police officer Mark (Petthai Wongkamlao), come across a hub of illegal animal and human smuggling behind a Thai restaurant named Tom-Yum-Goong. Standing in between Kam and his elephants are armies of bad guys, who charge toward him like idiots without brains to learn that the hero has already knocked out dozens of their friends in one blow just moments earlier. Longer battles are with top villains in visually impressive settings and Kam gets to use special weapons to defeat them, such as using gong sticks with a Chinese swordfighter in a burning Buddhist temple, ropes with a Vietnamese gunman in a fancy Chinese restaurant, and elephant bones with three American wrestlers and the big boss in their antique-filled headquarters. Like in any fighting videogame, the hero never gets tired and he utters simple phrases like a pre-programmed computer character.

Of course, Tom-Yum-Goong will satisfy you if you only want a testosterone-filled, big-budget action movie with tightly choreographed fights and lots of explosions and gunshots. Scenes after scenes, lead actor Tony Jaa, choreographer Panna Ritthikrai, and director Prachya Pinkaew keep wowing the audience with some of the most breathtaking and death-defying stunts ever shown on Thai films.

Unfortunately, nothing else besides these action sequences is worth complimenting. The movie has most troubles with transactions, as it shifts too abruptly in and out of the fight scenes like glitches in a computer game. In addition, all the characters are one-dimensional and no one else other than the hero really adds any importance to the plot.

Tom-Yum-Goong has almost ceased to be a narrative film and become a commercial vehicle for Thailand . With substantial part of the spoken dialogue in English and Chinese, the movie will appeal to an international audience and possibly put Thailand ’s film industry on a more prominent position. This movie also showcases things the rest of the world might like about Thailand —Songkran Water Festival, Muay Thai, Thai food, Thai spa, Thai singer Sek Loso, and, yes, even prostitution. Furthermore, all of the film’s official sponsors - a national airline, a local brand of instant noodle, and an energy drink, alas, get significant product placements on film. In my opinion, it is as if Tom-Yum-Goong is only a means to promote Thailand , as these disparate elements are simply mixed together into a mumbo jumbo named after an internationally famous spicy and sour soup.

Nonetheless, neither this review nor any other ones can dent the ability of this film to gross enough to become this year’s top earner in Thailand . Tom-Yum-Goong is so oriented toward the young male videogame-playing audience, who will probably see it more than once. For the rest of us, the real soup will be more delicious.

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