Bangkok Revenge a.k.a Rebirth
Synopsis: Two decades after witnessing his parents' brutal murder, a Thai combat expert (Jon Foo) tracks down the killer to deliver justice.
Violent martial arts movie miskicks from go to whoa.
Given that his character is expressionless and bereft of emotions, Foo has no trouble looking blank
Hardcore fans of martial arts movies may get some fleeting pleasure from this derivative action movie from French writer-director Jean-Marc Minéo. The rest of us will likely find the characters risible, the dialogue banal and the violence numbingly repetitive.
The narrative blithely ignores the first rule of the genre: put the protagonist in extreme and frequent mortal danger. Yet here our stoic hero exhibits the powers of a Thai Superman as he easily defeats numerous assailants. The result: zero tension and minimal excitement.
The set-up sees 10-year-old Manit witnessing the execution of his father, a Bangkok cop, and mother by masked men. The kid rips off one assassin’s mask and is shot in the head. Miraculously he survives but lies in a coma in the hospital.
Just as the bad guys are about to finish the job, he’s rescued by a sympathetic nurse, Chanticha (Aphiradi Phawaphutanon), who sends him to a village where he’s tutored by a Muay Thai master, Adjan (Kowitch Wathana).
In a thrice Manit morphs into a young man played by Jon Foo, formerly a member of Jackie Chan's stunt team who has appeared in the action flicks Tekken and Universal Soldiers: Regeneration. It emerges that the bullet lodged in his brain has deprived him of all feeling, positive or negative.
According to the dubious moral code underpinning the story, Manit is instructed to use his lethal powers only when his life is in danger. The master soon makes a mockery of that dictum by provoking a fight with several innocent guys in a bar, which forces his protégé to lay waste to them.
Chanticha reappears, now on her deathbed, and tells Manit his dad was killed by corrupt cops whom he was about to expose. Why she left it so late to impart this vital information is not explained. Manit sets out to avenge his dad’s death (his mother’s demise apparently having been forgotten) while the villains, having been tipped off as to his whereabouts, go looking for him.
Conveniently he meets up with Clara (Caroline Ducey), a lissom French journalist who is investigating Bangkok’s gangs. She’s being menaced by a bunch of toughs, all of whom are easy meat for Manit. The chemistry between them is non-existent, not helped by clunky dialogue as when she muses, “It must be terrible never to feel anything” and he responds, “I don’t know, maybe it’s better that way.” Clara agrees to help Manit in his quest for justice but is whisked away by more bad guys while he fends off his attackers, yet again.
More tedious encounters ensue while Manit is helped by an honest Thai cop (Pream Busala-Khamvong) and Simon (Michaël Cohen), a scruffy French boxer and former policeman. A thinly sketched back story alludes to a heroin trafficking ring.
A sequence involving a bizarrely dressed all-girl gang and at least one transvestite seems transplanted from another movie entirely, and a sex scene is awkwardly staged and unconvincing.
In an attempt to make the film accessible to Western audiences, most characters speak English, some fluently, some not. Foo was born and raised in London to a Chinese father and an Irish mother and now lives in Los Angeles, which may explain why his accent wobbles between English and American. Manit is frequently asked why he speaks English. His oblique reply, “If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.”
Given that his character is expressionless and bereft of emotions, Foo has no trouble looking blank. The athletic Foo shows off some neat physical moves but most of the action sequences are uninspiringly mechanical. The sound effects team must have worked overtime to underscore all those kicks, punches and stomps. The murky lightning does not obscure the plot holes and thin characterisations, while the generic score swells and subsides without enhancing the melodramatic mood one iota.
Minéo is an experienced filmmaker with more than 20 film and TV credit so I cannot explain why this effort is so amateurish.
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