Gang War Epic
Lee Armstrong | Winterville, NC United States | 07/07/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This Thai production set in the Chinatown district of Bangkok, which is the area to which I believe the title refers, is an action-packed gang war epic. I'm not sure which of the two stars plays the bad guy Kao-lad, but my guess is that it's Chakrit Yamnarm. His character name comes from chestnuts, which he likes to eat. He a good looking young man whose lack of subtlety in the role is made up for by his hair-trigger temper. The antithesis of this is Saleng who I believe is played by Darawan Wilaignam, although I could have the two actors' names mixed up. His character name comes from three wheels, when his adopted father would carry him on his tricycle. Saleng is calmer than Kao-lad. [spoiler alert] When he makes love with his prostitute girlfriend, it seems tender and romantic. Saleng works for one of the crime bosses. The boss contrasts with Saleng with an S&M streak that results in him beating a woman to become aroused. The opening strangulation of a young woman who is also beaten was very difficult to watch. It sets up the conflict where a new girl is arranged named Yong Tan. She does not like to be beaten, but has little choice since she redeemed her family from debt. Kao-lad's pride and humiliation at being shut out of the V.I.P. card game causes him to shout that the other crime boss' mother was a lady of ill repute. This results in a gun battle that leaves about 15 corpses scattered about the club. Meanwhile Saleng is given the job of looking after his crime boss's new wife Yong Tan, which creates tender feelings between them. Saleng breaks up with his prostitute girlfriend who then becomes a Buddhist nun. When Saleng enters and sees the scarred back and fresh lacerations that his boss has left behind, it causes him to take Yong Tan in his arms. This sets up a fight when the Crime Boss returns and sees his new wife in the arms of his employee. After an altercation, Yong Tan ties a rope to her husband's private part and throws him off the roof, effectively "dis-membering" him. This causes Saleng and Yong Tan to flee. The ending is very like a Romeo & Juliet conclusion, Thai-style. Darawan (I think) does a nice job as Saleng, showing a great range from the tender lover to the violent street warrior. There is also an old fortuneteller who does a very nice job as the wise friend of Saleng. Overall, this is an interesting film, but the brutality to women makes it one that does not translate well to American culture. Still, for action film fans who can stomach that, it may be entertaining."