Chocolate (2008) Movie Review

11 Comments

“Chocolate” is a film which has been causing considerable excitement amongst martial arts fans, unsurprisingly given that it is Thai director Prachya Pinkaew’s follow up to his worldwide hits “Ong Bak” and “Warrior King”. Having made a star of Tony Jaa, he here aims to do the same for female Muay Thai fighting sensation JeeJa Yanin, casting her in a similar role which basically sees her as an innocent taking on hordes of faceless opponents in a showcase for her skills. The film is being released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK via Showbox’s Cine Asia label, and comes with a variety of special features, including several featurettes on the cast, the making of and the martial arts choreography, as well as the usual deleted scenes.

The plot, such as it is, follows JeeJa Yanin as a young autistic girl called Zen, who has learned martial arts by watching the films of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and, funnily enough, Tony Jaa. Her skills come in handy when she and her friend Mangmoom decide to collect on the debts owed to her ailing ex-gangster mother by a number of people. Unfortunately, this brings them to the attention of her mother’s old gang comrades and rivals, who still bear a grudge against her for having fallen in love with Zen’s father, a Japanese yakuza.

Given the bone crunching brawls of “Ong Bak”, expectations for “Chocolate” were naturally high, and thankfully Pinkaew delivers exactly what the fans want, serving up an impressive amount of no holds barred martial arts action. The film is very much in the same style, being pleasingly free from special effects or cheap wirework, and has the same kind of visceral impact, with the viewer being able to actually feel the blows and kicks as they rain down. The stunt work is excellent and free from artifice or any obvious use of doubles, resulting in some truly breathtaking scenes. The choreography is similarly hard hitting, with the action being convincing and entertaining, and the film has several memorable sequences, including a battle that takes place on the side of a building which stands as one of the best and most exciting martial arts scenes in recent years.

Awesome action aside, “Chocolate” suffers from similar problems to “Ong Bak”, primarily that it is saddled with a melodramatic streak several miles wide. As a result, the film is slow to get started, and on a number of occasions loses its way thanks to Pinkaew throwing in another needlessly sentimental scene. Of course, this is not to say that taking a stab at character development is a bad thing, though unfortunately here it is handled too clumsily to elicit anything other than groans of laughter, mainly consisting of slow motion musical montages. To be fair, despite these lapses, “Chocolate” does see Pinkaew progressing somewhat as a filmmaker, with his direction being far more polished, and enjoying better production values than “Ong Bak”.

Thankfully, the film has a winning ace up its sleeve in the form of JeeJa Yanin, who has considerable screen presence, enough so to transcend the shallowness, and indeed silliness of her role. Whenever she is given the chance to cut loose the film springs into dynamic life, and her impressive martial arts talents bring a genuine sense of danger and excitement to the proceedings. Even during the quieter scenes she is a real joy to watch, and is surely destined for great things.

Certainly, her acrobatic performance and the outstanding action scenes in general mark “Chocolate” as a must see for martial arts fans. The film’s shortcomings, whilst an annoyance, are not unexpected, and do not prevent it from delivering an intense, thrilling action experience.

Prachya Pinkaew (director) / Chukiat Sakveerakul, Nepalee Sakweerakul (screenplay)
CAST: JeeJa Yanin …
Ammara Siripong … Zin
Hiroshi Abe … Masashi
Pongpat Wachirabunjong … No. 8
Yanin Vismitananda … Zen


Buy Chocolate on DVD

Author: James Mudge

James is a Scottish writer based in London. He is one of BeyondHollywood.com’s oldest tenured movie reviewer, specializing in all forms of cinema from the Asian continent, as well as the angst-strewn world of independent cinema and the plasma-filled caverns of the horror genre. James can be reached at jamesmudge (at) btinternet.com, preferably with offers of free drinks.
  • Harosa

    I imported this a few months back on a region free Thai DVD because the trailer looked so good and was totally taken in by the action and the main actress but even without English subs i could tell the main storyline dragged on and on which is a shame because i hate having to tell people that a storyline is unimportant and to see a movie just for the fight scenes but that seems to be the case with a lot of these great recent Thai movies, the action is hot to death but you can skip the main story. Import some editors and music people, hell even some scriptwriting help from the US while you’re at it, the Thai seem to be willing to throw themselves off of a mountain to make some cool action scenes, they need to be in better made films.

  • Harosa

    I imported this a few months back on a region free Thai DVD because the trailer looked so good and was totally taken in by the action and the main actress but even without English subs i could tell the main storyline dragged on and on which is a shame because i hate having to tell people that a storyline is unimportant and to see a movie just for the fight scenes but that seems to be the case with a lot of these great recent Thai movies, the action is hot to death but you can skip the main story. Import some editors and music people, hell even some scriptwriting help from the US while you’re at it, the Thai seem to be willing to throw themselves off of a mountain to make some cool action scenes, they need to be in better made films.

  • GreasyMonk

    I just bought and watched this movie. The fight scenes are really good but the story is meh.. A “special” girl wouldn’t be able to pull off such moves in real life. I’m not trying to offend anyone here but it just wouldn’t happen in real life. When she’s fighting, she seems like she’s just a normal girl. None the less, this movie is still worth watching if you are into Ong Bak and the sequel.

    Btw, watch IP Man from Donnie Yen if you haven’t watched it yet. That movie is like the best KungFu Movie I’ve seen this year so far.

    • http://yokoshimauiku.deviantart.com/ Uiku

      well actually the chance that an autistic girl is able to learn that much from just watching stuff is far higher than it is for normal people. I’ll admit that I am tryin to keep the image a bit higher as I’m born with a varient of autism myself but that only means that I know what I’m talking about.
      I agree with you that it isn’t likely to happen, but it is still more likely to happen with an autistic girl. Autism often gives in social skills for amazing other skills.

    • mahhhh

      it does happen not like her but lots of people lose something but gain something in return. example the guy who can’t do simple task but have photographic memories.

  • GreasyMonk

    I just bought and watched this movie. The fight scenes are really good but the story is meh.. A “special” girl wouldn’t be able to pull off such moves in real life. I’m not trying to offend anyone here but it just wouldn’t happen in real life. When she’s fighting, she seems like she’s just a normal girl. None the less, this movie is still worth watching if you are into Ong Bak and the sequel.

    Btw, watch IP Man from Donnie Yen if you haven’t watched it yet. That movie is like the best KungFu Movie I’ve seen this year so far.

    • http://yokoshimauiku.deviantart.com Uiku

      well actually the chance that an autistic girl is able to learn that much from just watching stuff is far higher than it is for normal people. I’ll admit that I am tryin to keep the image a bit higher as I’m born with a varient of autism myself but that only means that I know what I’m talking about.
      I agree with you that it isn’t likely to happen, but it is still more likely to happen with an autistic girl. Autism often gives in social skills for amazing other skills.

  • Dwayne Stanislous

    It is the greatest martil arts film I have seen this year. The little girl breaks this old mans heart.. I have only one child…a lil girl 4 ft 9 in. and 90 lb. soaking wet with a pockt full of rocks.My daughter is 30 and single. She lives by herself and I always take her to the pistol rang and show her a few puches.

  • http://freetvmovies Dwayne Stanislous

    It is the greatest martil arts film I have seen this year. The little girl breaks this old mans heart.. I have only one child…a lil girl 4 ft 9 in. and 90 lb. soaking wet with a pockt full of rocks.My daughter is 30 and single. She lives by herself and I always take her to the pistol rang and show her a few puches.

  • http://yokoshimauiku.deviantart.com/ Uiku

    I sorta heard of this film on forums and I decided to watch it a few days ago.
    Eventhough I’m not really into the genre or even movies at all, to me this is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, or atleast the first one in a long while to get me truly excited. It is only the second low budget martial-arts film I’ve watched so it reminded me of how much more I like to see this type of choreography without special effects.
    But I think the main reason for me getting excited over this movie is the fact that being autistic myself I could truly identify myself with zen’s character.
    My own childhood wasn’t all that great because of it so it did hurt at some points in watching but that just shows that the autistic part has been done unexpectedly well. Looking at zen was often just like watching myself as a little kid. And even the part that she learns all that stuff from watching films and people is typically autistic and reminds me of what I’ve learned to do simply by watchin, listening and observing.

  • http://yokoshimauiku.deviantart.com Uiku

    I sorta heard of this film on forums and I decided to watch it a few days ago.
    Eventhough I’m not really into the genre or even movies at all, to me this is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, or atleast the first one in a long while to get me truly excited. It is only the second low budget martial-arts film I’ve watched so it reminded me of how much more I like to see this type of choreography without special effects.
    But I think the main reason for me getting excited over this movie is the fact that being autistic myself I could truly identify myself with zen’s character.
    My own childhood wasn’t all that great because of it so it did hurt at some points in watching but that just shows that the autistic part has been done unexpectedly well. Looking at zen was often just like watching myself as a little kid. And even the part that she learns all that stuff from watching films and people is typically autistic and reminds me of what I’ve learned to do simply by watchin, listening and observing.