Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Vengeance of an Assassin: Truth in Titling

Bone-crunching badassery runs in Nathee and Than’s family, but it apparently skipped their drunken uncle. He has his reasons for retreating into a beer bottle. He promised to keep them on the straight and narrow after their undercover cop parents were murdered, but the brothers remain dead set on revenge. Inconveniently, the old family nemesis gets proactive in Vengeance of an Assassin (trailer here), the final film helmed by late Thai action maestro Panna Rittikrai, which releases today on DVD and BluRay from Well Go USA.

To discover the identity of his parents’ killers, Nathee leaves his uncle’s home to become a professional assassin. Than stays with their guilt-ridden guardian, but he secretly develops his skills using training tapes made by their parents. One day, “Thee” gets a suspicious assignment: he is supposed to protect Ploy, the daughter of a well-connected politician and minor celebrity in her own right. Nathee quickly figures out he is being set up by his mysterious employer to take the rap for Ploy’s murder. Although there is not a lot of trust between him and Ploy, he protects her anyway, because that is his assignment, dodgy as it is. Needless to say, it was personal to begin with and becomes even more so after Nathee kills Nui, the lethal girlfriend of his archenemy’s entitled son.

Okay, what part of Vengeance of an Assassin don’t you get? You have an assassin and he’s out for revenge. The plot is simple, yet strangely incomprehensible at times. Realism is not exactly a top priority here either. Frankly, Nathee probably should have died a dozen times over before he ever reaches the third act. At one point, he is repeatedly impaled on a metal spike, but Ploy is able to get him to her family doctor just in time. He practices Chinese medicine, you see. At least it provides an opportunity for the good doctor to lay a massive beatdown on the henchmen who follow Ploy and Nathee.

Without question, the main attraction is Rittikrai’s super-charged OSHA-free fights scenes. They are wildly cinematic and relentless over-the-top. As Nathee, Dan Chupong has the right old school 1980s down-and-dirty chops. Ooi Teik Huat nicely channels Gordon Liu as the venerable but surprisingly spry doctor, but it is tough to top the star power and action cred of Kessarin Ektawatkul, who really has Tony Jaa-level international breakout potential, even when she plays a villain like Nui. Nisachon Tuamsoongnern doesn’t get to have nearly as much fun as Ploy, but she is not nearly as annoying as most genre damsels in distress.

The CGI in Vengeance is not so hot and there are narrative holes big enough to hurtle a derailed train through, which in fact Rittikrai does. However, when the characters are bashing each other black and blue with license plates and windshield wipers, it is pretty darned entertaining. Recommended for martial arts fans hoping for a big serving of red meat, Vengeance of an Assassin is now available for home viewing from Well Go USA.