Sunday, February 18, 2024

Prachya Pinkaew’s Elephant White

In Thailand, you might just find a monastery next to a sex club. That will be handy for Curtie Church, a former “Agency” assassin who has gone freelance. He basically lives like a monk and he has taken on one of Thailand’s nastiest human trafficking gangs as his latest target. It starts out as a job, but it quickly turns personal in Prachya Pinkaew’s Elephant White, which airs on Bounce TV.

A grieving father, whose daughter was abducted and ultimately killed by the Chang Cao gang has hired Church to kill some of the gang and frame their rival Jong Ang gang, in retribution. Church might not fully believe him, but the more he learns about both gangs, the more intent he is on destroying them. He also finds an unexpected source of intel when Mae follows him back to the monastery belltower, where he has been hiding out.

It turns out Mae was once one the women held in slavery by the Chang Cao. After somehow escaping their brothels, she has led a devout, Zen-like life, which gives her an affinity for Church’s hosts. Of course, she does not approve of his guns-blazing approach to problem-solving. Fortunately, Church also knows “Jimmy the Brit,” an old Agency colleagues who is now making a killing as an arms dealer. Jimmy is a sleazy horndog, but when push comes to shove, the crimes of the Chang Caos and Jong Angs do not sit well with him either (and Church will push and shove him plenty).

Elephant White initially flew under the radar with fans, even though it was helmed by Pinkaew, the action auteur who helmed the first Ong Bak and The Protector films. It also features Kevin Bacon shamelessly chewing the scenery and doing the weirdest Scott Adkins accent. Yet, it all works perfectly, especially when he is paired up with the strong, silent, and physically imposing Djimon Housou as Hunter.

There is a lot of rock-solid fight scenes and shoot-outs, which are nicely complimented with the amusing odd couple chemistry Hounsou and Bacon develop. It is too bad
Elephant White was such a sleeper, because it would be fun to see these characters return to takes on more bad guys. Yet, the spiritual Buddhist element really distinguishes the film from a lot of VOD action smack-downs. Even if you see the big twist coming, it still works as a serious kicker. The way Jirantanin Pitakporntrakul portrays Mae with such serene sadness contributes considerably to that end.

Ron Smoorenburg was uncredited as one of the ill-fated bodyguards, so you know there must be some considerable butt-kicking going on in
Elephant White. It is definitely worth catching up with, if you enjoy cathartic street justice, served up with Thai flair. Highly recommended for action fans, Elephant White airs late-night tonight (2/18) and Monday (2/26) on Bounce TV (and it streams on Prime and Peacock).