Writer/director/editor Oxide Pang's (The Eye, Bangkok Dangerous) wrong side of the law romance/youth/drug film nearly hits every cliched note in the book, the only ones it misses are the ones that would have actually made it more interesting. Having caused some controversy in its native Thailand, one expects something a tad more daring; however, it must be a cultural thing, a hometown bias, because the One Take Only (2001) barely hits on any significant insightful note like a Trainspotting or a Drugstore Cowboy. Instead, it's a routine tale of young lovers scraping by with illegal means, obviously destined to hit a wall at some point where everything will come crashing down.
Oh yeah, and a whole lot of montages.
Bank (Pawarith Monholpisit) is a low level, meekish drug dealer. He wears a ‟D.A.R.E.‟ T-shirt, so we know he's totally cool and ironic. Som (Wanatchada Siwapornchai) is a waifish prostitute, the clean, cinematic kind, not the real kind who looks like her herpes have crabs and those crabs have syphilis. This is the kind of movie that shows her with two clients, the first, an amusing fat older guy who lies that she looks like his wife, who is actually a whale, and her other client, later on, is a seedier guy and she doesn't like having to bed him, though it is hinted that is more because she's found love, not that he's an icky aggressive humper. That's the kind of hack storytelling idea of "balance" at use here.
While to two frequented the same areas and lived in the same housing project, they had never met until one day, briefly at a café and then later when Som comes to Bank's rescue after he gets in over his head trying to whip some local bullies. ‟Getting to know you‟ montage. Bank finds out Som's occupation and initially bristles. ‟Relationship-she wont pick up the phone- stare out of the rainy window‟ montage. The two get back together and Bank starts to make bigger waves in drug dealing by acting as a courier, delivering a large amount of pills to a dangerous-looking hood. ‟Happy days, let's spend money‟ montage. When an even bigger deal is made and they need an extra body to help out, Bank suggests Som, and anyone who knows their ill-fated romance crime flick formula can easily predict it wont go smoothly.
There just isn't much to recommend about this movie. The script is routine and doesn't appear to be tremendously culturally poignant. You could relocate everything to another country and have it play out exactly the same way. The characters are not particularly well-drawn or interesting. The only reason I'll likely remember the film five years from now is a surprisingly blackly comic and gruesome bit in finale. Oxide Pang's over reliance on visuals, hyper MTV editing, techo driven Run Lola Run-ish montages, just hammers home the lack of true substance.
I'll sum it up this way. Som often sees a little girl flower peddler selling her wares to cars at an intersection. The poor thing doesn't have shoes to protect her little piggies from the hot asphalt. Cue wistful, empathetic montage. Then, when things are going well for Som and Bank, Som goes to help out the little girl and takes over selling her flowers for an afternoon while the girl sits on the roadside and smiles. Yep, cue another jaunty montage. Yet, the impact of the compassion is lessened by the fact that Som is all provocatively dressed and cute and flirty, suggesting her ultimate message is ‟Hey, little girl, grow up and shake that money-maker.‟ When the finale comes back around to make its big point by showing the street urchin, we are meant to be sad and reflectful of the underprivileged trying to get by, but the film handles it all in such a hokey manner, I found myself laughing out loud and saying to the screen, ‟Why didn't you just buy her some shoes when you had money!‟
The DVD: TARTAN
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. Obviously a budget production, but one with some attempt at visual panache, really the only way the Pang's know how to operate. Asking them to by understated with their visuals would be like asking Pacino to keep his voice down. Technically the transfer appear fine, free from any glaring glitches. Most of the issues here are on the source print, which shows a general lack of detail here and there, softness, muted color, and the occasional spots or worn frame.
Sound: DTS, 5.1, and 2.0 Thai language (incorrectly labeled ‟Korean‟ on the DVD menu) with optional English subtitles. DTS and 5.1 Surround mixes sound all fine and well, but really that cannot do much to improve an essentially indie/low budget sound mix. Sure, they give the techno scoring a generous push, but they cannot mask the fact that the films sound fx is strictly stock and too obviously fake.
Extras: The DVD case stated there were film notes but I found none as an insert or as a text feature on the DVD.--- Original trailer.--- Making of Ab-normal Beauty (10:54). Okay, this was really odd. Since they lacked any special features relating to the film, Tartan slapped on a featurette from one of their other Pang Bros releases.
Conclusion: It might be one of the worst crimes you can commit in cinema: to have good intentions and end up delivering nothing but blandness. The DVD is pretty humdrum but delivers the basics. Fans of the Pang Bros may be curious to check out this film, but only as a rental.