EUROPE RAIDERS (2018) review

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13 years isn’t such a long time for a sequel to arrive, considering Rambo came back after 19 years, Blade Runner after 25 years, and Mad Max after 29. Yet 13 years feels like eons for the sequel to such fluff as Tokyo Raiders and Seoul Raiders to turn up. Not in terms of anticipation, mind you. Tokyo and Seoul were mildly entertaining but quite unmemorable, and haven’t really aged well. Still, they benefitted from attractive casts gathered around the considerable charm of Tony Leung Chiu Wai. Surprisingly, Leung returns for Europe Raiders, despite having become more rare in recent years – perhaps Wong Kar Wai’s role as a producer helped a bit, or perhaps he just wants to have fun: after all, he also appeared in Monster Hunt 2 this year.

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THIS GIRL IS BADASS (aka JUKKALAN) (2011) review

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The budding Thai martial arts star Jeeja Yanin’s third and latest film as a lead, This Girl is Badass was directed and co-stars Petchtai Wongkamlao, a popular Thai comedian best known worldwide as Tony Jaa’s comic relief in the Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong films. JJ plays Jukkalan, a bike delivery girl who runs afoul of rival mobsters who hired her and whose dirty money she kept for herself. But this short plotline accounts only for a small fraction of the film’s scenes (mostly the action scenes). The bulk of the film actually focuses on Jukkalan’s world : her uncle Sawang (Petchtai Wongkamlao), who secretly pines for a pretty widow (Siriporn Eiamsuk) whose late husband he actually assassinated in his violent and unspoken past (this sounds somber but is treated in a very matter-of-fact way in the film, and never addressed when the two get closer) ; her boss Samureng (Akom Preedakul), a good-natured weirdo with a knack for outrageous outfits ; Duan (Chalerm Yamchamang), a lovesick and awkward boy who loves her but can’t seem to catch a break ; and, among a few others, Pong (Athit Amonwet) the boy she loves, but who she finds out is actually more interested in ‘elephant fights’ (we’ll let you guess or discover what that means).

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TOM YUM GOONG 2 (aka THE PROTECTOR 2) (2013) review

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In 2005 Tom Yum Goong seemed to cement Thaï action star Tony Jaa’s status as the new martial arts sensation, following his impressive calling card, 2003’s Ong Bak. Though Jaa was light on charisma, and the film itself was little more than a stunt demo reel, with a simplistic story and grainy, amateurish aesthetic, there was no denying the utter death-defying bravado of its fights and stunts, executed with a mix of lithe power and startling flexibility by its star. Tom Yum Goong didn’t shine more plotwise, but was a more polished film, worthy of the big screen : its director and choreographer, Prachah Pinkaew and Panna Rittikrai, Jaa’s pygmalions, had scaled back the life-threatening stunts but made the fights more momentous by featuring diverse and impressive guest-fighters like Capoeira-dynamo Lateef Crowder, Wushu-wonder John Foo, towering musclehead Nathan Jones and Vietnam’s finest, Johnny Tri Nguyen. Technically and artistically the fights were also things of beauty, with a dizzying 4-minute tracking-shot fight, Jaa breaking the bones of dozens of men in black, or taking on henchmen twice his size. Then came Tony Jaa’s much publicized breakdown on the set of Ong Bak 2, which he had wanted to direct, the eventual underperformance of that film, the complete failure of its second part, Ong Bak 3, and the star’s retreat as a Buddhist monk. Five years later, Tom Yum Goong 2 marks his comeback to films, his reunion with Pinkaew, and his first pairing with the petite martial arts wonder that more or less replaced him during his exile, Jeeja Yanin. And it’s hard not to be sorely disappointed.

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