I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Kick

tn_thekickTHE 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.

mp_thekickMeanwhile 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.

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VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 at 1:08 am and is filed under Action, Family, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

28 Responses to “The Kick”

  1. Amazing that a 3rd world country film industry understands the value of coherent action filmatics while Hollywood with their ever-growing budgets just don’t know any better.

    So Vern, when are you reviewing PAIN & GAIN? Be a Doer, not a don’t-er!

  2. RRA: I don’t think Thailand would appreciate being called a Third World country, especially as those definitions are from the height of the Cold War and were initially used to denote Capitalist/Communist Countries in First/Second World terms, lumping the rest of the world as “Third”.

    Course, this guy would disagree. http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/why-thailand-is-a-third-world-country/

  3. I think I understand what RRA means, but I also don’t think of Thailand that way. For me a third world country is one without access to modern conveniences usually due to war. I also would never have suspected Thailand would pick up the slack created by China’s takeover of Hong Kong. I like their mix of faith and violence.

  4. They are called development countries nowadays. Get with the program.

  5. The original Paul

    April 30th, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    I’ll certainly check this one out if I can find it. I thought “Power Kids” was pretty good but honestly it made me feel a little uncomfortable… watching a more serious action movie with kids in the lead roles felt kinda icky. (That’s a technical term in somebody’s language, I’m sure.)

  6. I didn’t hear about Power Kids, was it icky because the violence was too brutal?

  7. I was talking to a fellow from Thailand the other day, and we discussed a number of Thai martial arts films. I don’t think I would have had that conversation if it weren’t for Vern’s reviews. I might have to check this one out.

  8. I liked this one, but I seem to have a soft spot for Thailand’s ridiculously brutal brand of children’s entertainment. I appreciate that they let their kids watch people their own age take a serious beating and prevail. Life is hard, and they respect their kids enough not to sugarcoat the stories they feed them too much.

    But mainly I think I like this one because Jija Yanin looks real perdy with long hair. I am a simple man.

  9. nabroleon Dynamite

    April 30th, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    When I get off work I plan to watch this bootleg of Iron Man 3 a co-worker hit me off with. I didn’t like 2 much at all, so hopefully this one is a step up.

    I really liked Power Kids. I bought it in 2011 off Amazon and it still gets play from me and my kids. I’ll have to track this one down and see what’s up.

    Never heard of this one. Thanks for the heads up Vern.

  10. Jam – But its like how “video stores” still exist out there, even though VHS went the way of the dodo.

    Shoot – isn’t “development country” just another nice polite way to say “poor country”?

    I got nothing against Thailand, but c’mon guys.

  11. nabroleon: I didn’t like IRON MAN 2 much either, but I liked IRON MAN 3 quite a bit. Shane Black is a perfect fit.

  12. RRA – Thailand seems like a very brutal place no doubt, but I wouldn’t quite call it third world, it’s kinda like Brazil (aren’t the Favelas considered the worst ghettos in the world) where it’s a rough and tumble place, but it’s not like there’s no government or anything, to me a third world country is one that either has no Government or one that’s about to collapse and it’s basically Mad Max for real

  13. Thailand is quite a tourist attraction in fact. Many swedes go there on their vacations. Of course the poor parts are being hidden from the tourists when they go there, like swept under a rug sort of.

    Also,I didn´t think anyone actually used the term third world country anymore.

  14. Shoot McKay: I like “development” better, actually!

    But it’s not North Korea; travelers can go where they like, “poor parts” included. But they don’t usually want to. No need for rug-sweeping. I mean, Washington DC has poor neighbourhoods, but are they “swept under a rug”? Or is it simply that people would rather get their pictures taken in front of the White House than low-rent apartment housing?

    RRA: “But its like how “video stores” still exist out there, even though VHS went the way of the dodo.”

    Wut?

    Griff: I can’t say I found it a particularly “brutal country”. But hell, guys, I can’t be the only person who’s been there, can I?

  15. “Griff: I can’t say I found it a particularly “brutal country”. But hell, guys, I can’t be the only person who’s been there, can I?”

    well I have cousins that have visited it, but no I can’t say I have

  16. I haven’t been there myself, but almost everyone I know has. They say it’s really nice, if you stay away from the big cities.

  17. So in other words we’re debating semantics. Gotcha folks.

    Jam – you know, video stores. Netflix in a building, but with a worse selection and no guarantee movie will be in stock when you drive down there.

  18. RRA: No, I’m old and ugly enough to be familiar with the concept of video shops. Back then (stretches, spits into spitoon), I was a member of one or two. Still am, as a matter of fact. ‘Course, now they’re stocked with DVDs, but that’s semantics for you.

    What I wanted to know was, whether film format was your yardstick for measuring civilisation? ‘Cause the blurb at the start of CON AIR would beg to differ; said it was all down to how we treated our prisoners, as I recollect.

    But as the man says, your mileage may vary.

  19. RRA: The store I use has a bigger selection than Netflix, including all the obscure vhs I review all the time, plus new releases on the day they’re released. They keep all of their titles and are always growing, not “ebbing and flowing” as Netflix described their streaming service after losing 1800 MGM and WB titles last night (and all Viacom TV shows soon). When they eventually go down to Netflix my work here is gonna suffer dearly, so don’t gloat. Respect the video store while it’s alive.

  20. Thailand may not like being called third world or developing, but come on. Isn’t it the pedophilia homeland? I think any place that’s internationally known for its sex trafficking is third world, even if the term is outdated and no longer pc. My friend got a haircut there, and they offered to have an underage girl blow him while he waited (he claims to have turned them down). I remember seeing a documentary about how all the perverts take trips to Thailand just to find 12 year old prostitutes or whatever. So, yeah. I still call Thailand 3rd world and fuck them if they don’t like it.

  21. Vern: Didn’t know that Netflix lost all those titles. Wow. Glad I cancelled my sub. I felt that their streaming service was woefully lacking content even before this.

  22. I was not trying to put down Thailand or anything, I’m just an old person and new fangled terms don’t come easy for me. I have nothing but good memories of video stores and always enjoyed browsing the box art of everything in there. Cheap movies always had the best box art, skeletons and naked chicks everywhere.

  23. Vern – very fair enough.

    Jam – Then why ask? If you were being sarcastic, my sarcasm detector malfunctioned.

    Also, I don’t remember much about CON AIR. Just the bunny.

  24. RRA: No worries, bud. My sarcasm detector has been on the blink for a while too.

  25. CrustaceanHate

    May 1st, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    I’ve been to Thailand a couple of times. Nice place, friendly people. Pretty big gulf between the nice touristy areas and the areas where actual Thai people live, but I wouldn’t call it “brutal”. Burma, however…

    Vern: It’s awesome that you live in a place where there are enough people that would support a place like that, but let’s not pretend that it was ever the norm.

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