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The Thai film industry is known for its many cinematic strengths, but overall storytelling lucidity is not one of their strongest assets. "Power Kids" is an attempt to fit the fury of Muay Thai martial arts into pre-teen pants -- a peculiar motion picture that endeavors to warm up the action genre by including the little ones in on the fun. Short, sweet, and eventually mindful of splendid action choreography, "Power Kids" is too disjointed to truly rouse the senses, but what it does retain in the excitement department is more than enough to pass the time.
Raised in a martial arts academy, a group of youngsters spend their day cracking jokes, lusting after RC cars, and practicing their defensive moves. When the youngest of the group succumbs to a severe medical condition, it leaves four hours for a donor heart to arrive at the local hospital. Trouble arises when a terrorist group takes over the medical center, led by a war-weary commander who also happens to be a teenage girl. Fearing their youngest brother won't be able to receive the vital organ due to the violent occupation, the "Power Kids" spring into action, setting out to retrieve the heart and save one of their own.
It's not that "Power Kids" is confusing, it's just simply too abrupt to make a remarkable impression. Running a scant 72 minutes, the film doesn't have much time for characterization or suspense, preferring to stick to face-smashing basics to give the audience a basic show of child-sized force. I respect the minimalism, but the editing leaps from scene to scene with only marginal adhesion, speeding through needed time with the kids to get to the conflicts, thus taking the burden off the production to actually tell a story.
Take "Power Kids" as the grindhouse experience it's meant to be, and the action retains a few thrills. The stuntwork is impressive, and certainly anything involving the kids is applause-worthy, displaying these tykes as flipping, smacking heroes who know a thing or two about combating bad guys. The child actors that make up the titular gang offer sensitive performances, able to call up the requisite emotions between fights. It's amusing to watch the children in action, especially when everything slips into "Die Hard" mode, forcing our heroes to climb all over the hospital to retrieve the heart, achieving an unexpectedly compelling adventure tone.
The anamorphic widescreen image (1.78: 1 aspect ratio) feels a little cramped during the presentation, with a few shots awkwardly framed, possibly cropped to give the film a more accessible appearance. Colors are bold and plentiful, with light hues communicating the playful mood of the film. Skintones are solid, and black levels never interfere with the action. The image is rarely outstanding, but for a modest Thai import, the DVD handles the film well.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound mix is quite thin, lacking directional activity typically assigned to such furious action films. The tracks sounds primarily frontal, with a healthy force of dialogue exchanges and scoring cues mingling comfortably with all the sweetened body blows and gunfire. Every layer is respectfully separated, but there's little enveloping force, with only a rare cameo from a compelling bottom-end. A Thai track is also available.
English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles are offered.
"The Making of 'Power Kids'" (8:41) spotlights the cast and crew, who talk up their experiences training for the film (spending two years honing their skill), sharing the challenges of the shoot, with special attention paid to the camaraderie between the kids.
"Behind the Scenes Footage" (4:38) offers a glimpse of B-roll mayhem, as the actors take on difficult stunts. As with anything featuring children, the moves don't always go as planned.
A Trailer has not been included.
Before any families gather around the home theater for an evening of "Power Kids," let me remind potential viewers that the film is indeed R-rated, with salty language and some carnage to pepper the cutesy antics. The restrictive mark gives "Power Kids" free reign to raise a ruckus, and while enjoyable, the film never manages to snowball into something wonderfully psychotic. It feels like a missed opportunity.