Raging Phoenix (2009) Movie Review

You can’t blame the Thais for continuing to produce action movies like “Raging Phoenix”. There are basically only two genres coming out of Thailand that sells nowadays – martial arts movies and horror films. Everything else just doesn’t translate very well. One of the industry’s newest import is female ass kicking wonder Jeeja Yanin, who burst onto the scene last year with “Chocolate”, directed by “Ong Bak” head honcho Prachya Pinkaew. The film benefited greatly from Yanin’s unassuming features. For “Raging Phoenix”, we already know the deal, so director Rashane Limtrakul and action choreographer Panna Rittikrai (another “Ong Bak” vet) had to throw us a twist – a new form of martial arts that combines Muay Thai with breakdancing. Or at least, that’s the idea.

The plot for “Raging Phoenix” is as superfluous as they come – neglected rich girl Deu (Yanin) spends her time playing (badly, I might add) drums for a pop band, when she’s nearly abducted one day while trying to drink herself to death thanks to an ex-boyfriend. As luck would have it, Deu is saved by Sanim (Kazu Patrick Tang), who happens to be hanging around when the bad guys come for our heroine. Sanim whisks her off, battling guys in pogo shoes outfitted with blades along the way. He takes her back home, or what passes for home, where Deu meets his two inebriated comrades. Sanim, you see, didn’t stumble across Deu by accident; he, along with his buds, have been tracking a kidnapping ring snatching up Thai girls for nefarious purposes for some time, and was on a stake-out when Deu stumbled into their business.

We eventually come to learn that Sanim and his pals are more than just crusaders; they are themselves victims of the kidnapping ring – men whose women were taken by the scoundrels. When it becomes obvious that Deu is the perfect bait to lure out the bad guys, she must be taught the ways of the b-boy combat arts. Which, um, happens in a couple of days. Or however long the film’s training montage lasts. To be honest with you, it’s all a little silly how easily and quickly Deu goes from bad drummer in a pop band to super ass kicking heroine. Not only does she suddenly develop amazing b-boying skills, our girl mixes them up with some primo Muay Thai striking abilities as well. Yes, this is definitely one of those, “Just go along with it” moments.

The hook for “Raging Phoenix” is that director Limtrakul and action choreographer Rittikrai have come up with an original form of combat by combining the free-flowing rhythms of breakdancing with Muay Thai. And lots of drinking. It works, to an extent, but more often than not the whole thing looks and feels clumsy, not helped by the fact that the breakdancers are probably not real martial artists, and as a result their kicks and punches don’t look quite as convincing. It’s saying something when the tiny girl actually looks like she can kick ass even before she is supposed to have been privy to the (in this case, literally) secret “sauce” of the Muay Thai fighting breakdancers.

It’s beyond reason to expect too much from a movie like “Raging Phoenix”. It’s just understood that the acting will be bad, the emotions so forced as to be painful, and plotting only necessary to get our heroes from fight A to fight B. That’s what director Rashane Limtrakul provides, and honestly, it’s more than enough to carry the day. The action is really what everyone has paid money to see, and “Phoenix” certainly doesn’t skimp on the goodies. The choreography takes some getting used to and is nowhere near the punishing type of combat we’ve become used to from Rittikrai, perhaps a direct result of having to incorporate the stylish moves of breakdancing into the mix.

Things do pick up in the final 30 minutes, when the good guys finally discover the hidden lair of the baddies (underground, no less) and converge for a final series of seemingly neverending combat. Interestingly enough, Yanin’s style seems to revert back almost exclusively to Muay Thai during the film’s latter half, which is telling. And although you probably didn’t expect for it to be any less “out there”, the bad guys are led by an Amazonian fighter wearing a bikini bra. I kid you not. She is aided in her criminal empire by two kung fu types, and her real goal for kidnapping those Thai girls? Well let’s just say I’ve never heard of pheromones being that lucrative.

A movie like “Raging Phoenix” and, indeed, a lot of the current crop of action movies that are coming out of Thailand defies the traditional review. Which is why I won’t bother criticizing the acting, or the screenplay, and just tell you that if you like the idea of little Jeeja Yanin flying around onscreen taking it to the boys, then “Raging Phoenix” is your cup of tea. Anyone who finds that notion too ludicrous, or demands an explanation as to how a rich girl is able to grasp enough of Muay Thai to take on a warehouse full of baddies after a couple of days of training need not apply.

Rashane Limtrakul (director) / Sompope Vejchapipat (screenplay)
CAST: Jeeja Yanin … Deu
Kazu Patrick Tang … Sanim
Nui Sandang …
Sompong Lertwimonkasem …


Buy Raging Phoenix on DVD



About Nix

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Editor/Writer at BeyondHollywood.com. Likes: long walks on the beach and Kevin Costner post-apocalyptic movies. Dislikes: 3D, shaky cam, and shaky cam in 3D. Got a site issue? Wanna submit Movie/TV news? Or to email me in regards to anything on the site, you can do so at nix (at) beyondhollywood.com.

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  • http://www.myspace.com/kurotsurugi The_Strongest_There_Is

    I just finished watching this film and I am completely blown away. This is by far the best story, plot, and action I have seen come from Thailand. The action in a few other things may seem more grand, but I actually thought the sheer brutality and style of this movie went leaps and bounds beyond Everything Ive seen. Even beyond Mr Jia who I love so much. Ive also never really liked many feminine action starts because they don’t carry the same intensity of their actions for the most part as their male counterpart, except for the legends like Michelle Yeoh. Before watching this Zhang Ziyi was the only female I could watch in an action role for the last few years and take seriously but I need this chick from Thailand to learn some English and bring the real spotlight to this corner of the earth.

    I’m sure you can tell by the writing that I am completely stoked right now. I am going to buy it this week for safe keeping and reference and I am changing a script immediately to incorporate this chick lol.

    Like Dedpool said, I usually just show my friends the fights, but I dont think I can do that with this movie. Sure the ending got a little crazy with the far out fluids from women who have the stench that brings crazy egyptian women out of the catacombs, but hell, I see awesome potential for everyone in this film. I also felt the acting was top notch, and may be misleading due to the type of characters that make up the main gang but Sinam was extra excellent and the other two were definitely personality driven to perfection. The fourth member who showed up out of nowhere was good in his limited moments as well.

    I cant wait to see what she does next.

    • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

      Okay just the last paragraph alone makes me want to see this…and move to the other side of the earth so i don’t have to wait forever to see these films.

      • http://www.myspace.com/kurotsurugi The_Strongest_There_Is

        When you get around to it, I’m sure you will not be displeased. So awesome!

  • http://www.myspace.com/kurotsurugi The_Strongest_There_Is

    I just finished watching this film and I am completely blown away. This is by far the best story, plot, and action I have seen come from Thailand. The action in a few other things may seem more grand, but I actually thought the sheer brutality and style of this movie went leaps and bounds beyond Everything Ive seen. Even beyond Mr Jia who I love so much. Ive also never really liked many feminine action starts because they don’t carry the same intensity of their actions for the most part as their male counterpart, except for the legends like Michelle Yeoh. Before watching this Zhang Ziyi was the only female I could watch in an action role for the last few years and take seriously but I need this chick from Thailand to learn some English and bring the real spotlight to this corner of the earth.

    I’m sure you can tell by the writing that I am completely stoked right now. I am going to buy it this week for safe keeping and reference and I am changing a script immediately to incorporate this chick lol.

    Like Dedpool said, I usually just show my friends the fights, but I dont think I can do that with this movie. Sure the ending got a little crazy with the far out fluids from women who have the stench that brings crazy egyptian women out of the catacombs, but hell, I see awesome potential for everyone in this film. I also felt the acting was top notch, and may be misleading due to the type of characters that make up the main gang but Sinam was extra excellent and the other two were definitely personality driven to perfection. The fourth member who showed up out of nowhere was good in his limited moments as well.

    I cant wait to see what she does next.

    • Dedpool

      Okay just the last paragraph alone makes me want to see this…and move to the other side of the earth so i don’t have to wait forever to see these films.

      • http://www.myspace.com/kurotsurugi The_Strongest_There_Is

        When you get around to it, I’m sure you will not be displeased. So awesome!

  • ElectroFunkChild

    i thought chocolate was pretty boring honestly… this sounds alot more interesting. if u guys dig the b-boying moves in this movie u should all find any of the “battle of the year” videos, which is the international championships for b-boying… japan and korea always take things to the next level, they are really a force to be reckoned with in the b-boy world ! they are just amazing

  • ElectroFunkChild

    i thought chocolate was pretty boring honestly… this sounds alot more interesting. if u guys dig the b-boying moves in this movie u should all find any of the “battle of the year” videos, which is the international championships for b-boying… japan and korea always take things to the next level, they are really a force to be reckoned with in the b-boy world ! they are just amazing

  • ahmed

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