Review: Dynamite Warrior (2006)

I can count the number of Thai films I’ve seen on one hand, unfortunately — but I’ve hugely enjoyed everything I’ve seen, from action blockbuster Ong Bak to the wonderfully lurid western Tears of the Black Tiger. Much like Ong Bak, Chalerm Wonpim’s Dynamite Warrior takes the basic “One Man Bent On Revenge” storyline; however, Dynamite Warrior quickly veers off into the bizarre, adding so many unexpected plot elements that the simplicity of the story is all but forgotten. It feels like a television series compressed down into one hyper-kinetic hour and half: we’ve got warring magicians capable of telekinetic Muay Thai, buffalo-rustling folk heroes who ride rocket-powered covered wagons, and men possessed by animal spirits, leaping wildly about the landscape on wires.

So, it’s either the kind of film you enjoy, or the kind of film you really, truly loathe. As I’ve said, the basic plot is simple: Dan Chupong plays Jone Bang Fai, a young Robin Hood in Thailand in 1910 who steals buffalo from traders and gives them to poor villagers. As he does so, he searches for a mysterious tattooed man, a cattle-trader from his past who murdered his parents, long ago. His antagonist is the elaborately coiffed, singin’ and dancin’ Lord Waeng, played by Thai popstar Leo Putt. Lord Waeng has hatched a plot to sell tractors at enormous prices by hiring a group of bandits to kill cattle traders and steal their cattle. The bandits are led by a giant man who fights with a pair of huge clubs, played by Somdet Kaew-ler, who appears to be effectively invincible: so long as he’s hungry.

Lord Waeng’s evil plan is threatened by the presence of Sing (Samart Payakarun), a cattle trader who possesses magical powers, rendering him unkillable by normal means. Coincidentally, Sing is also the man Jone Bang Fai is looking for, but is unable to kill. It would (surprise!) take the arcane knowledge of the hideously scarred Black Wizard (Panna Rittikrai, trainer of both Dan Chupong and Tony Jaa) to take him down.

Okay, so it’s a fairly silly movie. People looking for a serious, bone-crunching experience like that of Ong Bak will have a bit of trouble with all the supernatural elements and CGI in Dynamite Warrior. That said, it’s a film that draws you in — the twists and turns are unpredictable enough that you genuinely want to see what happens next. Dan Chupong works hard as the athletic, rocket-firing leading man, and both Samart Payakarun and Panna Rittikrai put in good performances as the two warring magicians. I particularly liked Payakarun’s performance: Sing comes across as quite a complicated character, with unclear motivations and a brooding, serious presence.

See it for an evening of good fun, watching what could almost be animation rendered with real people!

7.5 rocket-powered covered wagons out of 10.
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