Anytime there's a motion picture that includes a plot point where the hero must equip himself with a menstrual-blood-tipped turn-of-the-century rocket to vanquish magic, consider me in. All in.
When the evil Lord Waeng elects to use his brutal thugs to clear the countryside of water buffalo in an attempt to pressure the citizens into buying his tractors, the farmers can only hope that Jone Bang Fai (Dan Chupong), a mysterious warrior for good, will arrive and end the violation. Driven by revenge and armed to the teeth with rockets, Bang Fai is more interested in catching the man who killed his father long ago. This feverish quest for vengeance distracts the hero from his mission to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
"Dynamite Warrior" is the latest berserk import from Thailand, a country emerging as one of the more inventive action cinema centers of the world. Now emboldened by Tony Jaa's twin hits "The Protector" and "Ong-Bak," "Warrior" decides to amp up the mayhem a little bit. It attempts to blend the sheer assskickery of the Muay Thai fighting style with generous amount of special effects, complicated wirework, and a plot so perpetually strange, it makes Hunter Thompson look like Pat Boone.
Truthfully, that's what makes "Warrior" such a pip to behold. Traditionally, the Weinstein effect would strip an outlandish import such as this of all its true colors, but "Warrior" snuck through the system seemingly intact. It's widescreen period adventure; a "Raiders of the Lost Ark" for liberal Thai audiences: instead of Indiana Jones, we have a diminutive flint-tossing hero passing up a bullwhip for hand-rolled rockets; Marion is a virginal sunflower who is rightfully disturbed that so many men have a vested interest in her Aunt Flo; and Belloq is royal puss, suffering from cleft lip, and hinging his entire future on this tractor scam. Call the film childish, careless, or just old-fashioned stupid, but you can't complain that the movie doesn't at least try.
A majority of the picture's appeal comes from star Dan Chupong and his compelling combat skill. "Warrior" does its best to make a Westernized hero out of Jone Bang Fai with slo-mo hero shots and a tale of revenge pulled straight from a western; but the real pulse of the picture is Shupong's distinctly Thai brutality, employing his gifts of knee-first stunt choreography to realize some complicated action sequences. Director Charlerm Wongpim only has the slightest grip on the coherency of the piece, but he's aces with the set pieces, mixing the unreal rapid-fire trauma of the body blows with the more highly theatrical moments of Fai surfing on rockets or dealing with supernatural enemies.
"Warrior" isn't an efficient movie, resorting to an obscene number of flashbacks to clarify character motivations (Bang Fai's tragedy and heroic rebirth is especially rousing), and the cultural differences can be startling to those, like myself, unaccustomed to Thai sensitivity and bodily fluid mysticism. The unsteady bravado of the piece is enchanting, softening the down moments between combat with screen peculiarities and cultural idiosyncrasies that feed art-house matinee curiosity over what could possibly come next. For those who are bored with Hollywood blockbusters chasing their tails, "Dynamite Warrior" is a sure way to regain a frothy sensation of surprise.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1 aspect ratio), "Dynamite Warrior" isn't as crisp a visual experience as desired, suffering from mild smearing during low-light scenarios. However, the Thai countryside sequences are rich with color and depth, saving the DVD from complete failure.
English and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks are offered. My advice is to skip the English dubbed version of the film, which is appalling, seemingly thrown together in a matter of hours. Stick with the subtitles and leave the speakers for the bone-crunching action, nicely represented on the DVD.
"The Making of 'Dynamite Warrior'" (14 minutes) is a simple sit-down with cast and crew as they discuss the creation of this strange little actioner. Surprisingly, maintaining historical accuracy was a huge challenge for this terrific picture. Of course, you take can director Wongpim's advice: "If you love Northeast Thailand, you will love this film."
Right on. Well, that or nutty menstruation subplots, but either way it's all good.
"Behind-the-Scenes Stunts" (2 minutes) is simple B-roll footage of a handful of action sequences.
"On-The-Set Footage" (3 minutes) is more B-roll, only now the focus is on the character interaction.
"Special Effects Make-Up" (2 minutes) examines the process it took to get The Black Wizard into his gooey, bleeding skin. It's disgusting and quite interesting to get a close-up peek at the transformation.
Finally, the Thai theatrical trailer is included.
"Dynamite Warrior," with a climax of otherworldly body-switching, displays of cannibalism and slapstick, and well, the whole menstrual blood stuff, is not an easy film to comprehend, but thinking isn't the top entrée on this menu. It's Thai action viciousness that charges full steam ahead, swallowing the viewer with a raggedy, ballsy energy that could be read as exhaustive and inconclusive, but I found it to be overpoweringly enjoyable, to the point of giddiness.