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The Man Who Knew Too Much: Mindfulness and Murder
  By Sorradithep Supachanya / 6 April
   
 

 

In a society corrupted by greed, deceit, and lust, temples provide refuge for those seeking morality and serenity. Or not. As Mindfulness and Murder, a multi-layered whodunit thriller from Thai-British director Tom Waller shows, while some shamelessly exploit the place of worship for their own gains, some risk everything to defend it.

The film centers on an unlikely hero in an unlikeliest of place. When the brutal murder of a homeless, orphaned temple boy goes unnoticed by the police, Father Ananda (Vithaya Pansringarm), a resident monk and a retired homicide detective, begins the investigation on his own. But as clues turn up, Father Ananda uncovers an underground drug-trafficking network involving powerful bureaucrats and monks, and consequently finds his life in grave danger.

Clever editing keeps the audience guessing the perpetrator. The shot with Father Ananda unearthing the murdered temple boys clothes follows that of the temple clerk whispering the phone that he would never find it. Another shot of a suspiciously looking monk ending his cellphone conversation is juxtaposed with that a powerful bureaucrat hanging up. Of course, these scenes may be unrelated, but they sure make everyone a suspect.

Mindfulness and Murder is further benefited by a strong, sophisticated story; with each clue, the plot thickens, twists, and turns. Shortly after the murder, official records of four new monks disappear from the temples clerk room. One of the four monks has been seen with a suspicious gang member. Another has been absconded and is later found murdered, with the body switched with that of the temple boy in the latters cremation. The abbot also seems too eager to rid the problem. And the temples biggest donor clearly shows he has something to hide.

But plot twists border on overloading toward the end. The four monks with missing records turn out to be undercover cops working to break into the drug trafficking network. But later clues reveal they may not be secret agents after all (or are they?). As details explode and the plot begins to spiral out of control, the revelation of the murderer comes across as anti-climatic, based on weak presuppositions from simple clues.

 

 

Certain characters show great promises but are underused. Journalist Jenjira (Charina Sirisinha) hides behind her constantly ringing cellphone while she could have become the courageous reporter exposing the drug trafficking network. Inspector Somchai (Abhijati Jusakul) sits behind his desk when he could have been breaking the biggest case of his career. And orphaned temple boy Jak (Pakapong Sangkasi), who regards Father Ananda as his surrogate father, should have provided the link to Father Anandas own family tragedy, disappointingly revealed to us in a passing conversation.

Vithaya Pansringarm gives a fine, subdued performance as Father Ananda. Octogenarian actor Jaran See Tao Petcharoen shines as the temple abbot. But Prinya Intachai retains too much of his real-life Thai-American hip-hop image to convincingly pass off as a temple monk.

While Mindfulness and Murder may not be this years perfect crime fiction, it serves its purpose as an entertaining, fast-moving thriller that mostly keeps viewers alerted and captivated.

   
   

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