THE KICK is a family friendly Thai martial arts movie from director Prachya Pinkaew (ONG BAK, TOM YUM GOONG, CHOCOLATE). It’s not as ridiculous as POWER KIDS (arguably that’s a bad thing) but way less cheesy and broad than MUAY THAI GIANT (definitely a good thing). It’s less gory than POWER KIDS but otherwise schews a little older, with a teen brother and sister getting alot of the focus.
Despite being a Thai production it’s about a Korean family who train and perform Tae Kwon Do. The father has alot of resentment about a loss at the Olympics long ago, just as he had to abandon his dream in order to raise a family. Because of this he puts alot of pressure on his family to train hard, especially his older son, who would rather pursue his dream of STEP UP style dancing. Dad doesn’t even want him to go to a big audition to be a dancer for “Dream Entertainment.” The poor kid has to make a deal to master the impossible “Tornado Kick” to even be allowed to pursue dancing at all.
Meanwhile there’s this valuable antique dagger that’s gonna be on display in Bangkok at the same place as a TKD expo where the family are doing a demonstration. I was kind of confused about their demonstration, because things get all messed up and there are goofy cartoon sound effects and the audience laughs. I thought that meant it was part of the routine, they do this corny comedy deal while demonstrating their skills. But then the family are all bummed out afterwards as if they actually did screw up. So maybe they’re not trying to be funny and somebody in the sound department should’ve been fired.
Anyway while they’re in the building the older brother and sister happen to interfere with an attempt to steal the dagger, and the thieves come after the family for revenge.
The whole family are really good screen martial artists, except I guess little toddler son Typhoon, but even he does a few moves, including some testicular damage. The family alone would be a good enough cast to carry the movie, but Pinkaew ups the ante by sending the kids to hide out in the country with dad’s best friend Uncle Mum, played by Phetthai Vongkumlao, a.k.a. Dirty Balls from ONG BAK. And Uncle Dirty Balls has a niece, and it’s non other than this century’s top female onscreen asskicker so far, Jija Yanin, star of CHOCOLATE and RAGING PHOENIX. Also, Mum is an animal trainer, so an elephant steals their potato chips, a monkey steals Typhoon’s handheld video game, etc. You know, for the kids.
It’s a small movie, more of an excuse to set up fights than a story. Reminds me of some of the lesser but not terrible Jackie Chan movies – simple and cheap but very fun to watch anyway. The bad guys kidnap Typhoon to force the family to steal the dagger for them. Then there’s fighting and animal hijinks at the Bangkok Zoo. It satisfyingly fulfills expectations (do you think Typhoon’s bomb disarming video game will come into play at all, or… Hmmm…) and formula (the Tornado Kick – which I guess is the title character – works as the climactic special move of both fighting movies and dancing movies). And the family-learning-to-get-along cliches feel sincere, wholesome but not treacly.
The fighting is good and plentiful. The guy who plays the older brother is not necessarily on the level of a Tony Jaa or a Jija, but he does pretty good with some enjoyable gimmicks:
1) fighting a bunch of guys while on the phone with Typhoon. He’s doing flips with the phone tucked between his head and shoulder, talking about food to keep little brother distracted
2) working his dancing into his fighting in order to get better. He figures out if he plays a certain cheesy K-pop love song and dances to it he can use that rhythm to improve his fight moves and kick ass. During the climax a monkey gives him a crucial assist by playing the song on the stolen handheld video game. So that’s a rare combination of fight, dance and monkey comedy.
There’s some fake looking CGI, for example hungry gators that make the ones in ERASER seem great, and I know there are alot of anti-digital purists out there so I’m sure some people will hate that about THE KICK. But I thought the goofy jokes made it worth it: the squid thrown on a guy’s face, Uncle Dirty Balls sucking gas off a stove, breathing fire, then coughing up smoke. Good ideas worth computing in my opinion.
I definitely wouldn’t put this up with the Thai action classics (BORN TO FIGHT, ONG BAK, TOM YUM GOONG, CHOCOLATE) but it’s a very enjoyable throwaway for those of us who love great martial arts on screen.