Thai director Prachya Pinkaew and choreographer Panna Rittikrai return with more martial arts action in “The Kick”, which sees a family of Korean taekwondo masters taking on criminals in Thailand. The men who gave the world the hugely popular series “Ong Bak” serves up more of the same, with high-octane action going hand in hand with crazy stunts and top notch athleticism, though this time with more comedy and a family friendly appeal. The cast is made up of a mixture of Korean and Thai stars, including Cho Jae Hyun (“Bad Guy”), Ye Ji Won (“Hanji”), real life martial artists Kim Kyung Suk and Na Tae Joo, and Thai comedian Petchthai Wongkamlao. Excitingly, the film also sees Pinkaew working again with the sensational Jija Yanin, who he first introduced back in 2008 in the awesome thriller “Chocolate”.
The knockabout plot sees the Moon family from Korea running a restaurant in Bangkok, with pushy father Cho Jae Hyun forcing teenage son Yoon (Ye Ji Won) into training for the Olympics, when all the lad wants to do is audition for a dance contest. After Yoon and his sister (Kim Kyung Suk) inadvertently thwart a group of criminals’ attempt to steal a Thai national treasure called the Kris of Kings, the family become a target for revenge. Being advised to leave the city, the two kids and their younger brother are shipped off to the countryside to stay with their Thai uncle Mum (Petchthai Wongkamlao) and his niece Wawa (Jija Yanin), where Yoon undergoes more training and learns how to temper his skills.
It’s no small feat to try and balance genuinely exciting martial arts action with family friendly comedy and themes, though with “The Kick” thankfully Prachya Pinkaew and Panna Rittikrai manage to pull off the juggling act with a real sense of fun and energy. Fans certainly shouldn’t be put off by the film’s broader focus, as though it does lack any “Ong Bak” style violence and bone breaking, it’s crammed full of fight scenes, acrobatics and wild stunt work. Pinkaew and Rittikrai prove yet again to be an excellent partnership, and the film moves along at a fast pace, barely pausing for breath between its many highly creative set pieces, with some awesome choreography and jaw-dropping moments along the way, including standout scenes featuring elephants and a mass battle involving painful looking ceiling fans. The martial arts in the film are a mixture of both taekwondo and Muay Thai, and this combination helps to give it a different and dynamic feel.
As usual for this kind of film the plot takes a definite back seat to the action, though the script does well enough in terms of its modest ambitions, working in its message of family without ever getting too heavy handed. A few subplots aside, the film is straightforward in a focused manner, and though predictable to a fault is inoffensive and engaging enough during its few brief moments when people aren’t hitting each other or jumping off waterfalls and moving vehicles. It also helps that the cast are all pretty likeable, with Ye Ji Won doing well in what emerges as the lead, developing beyond what initially appears to be an annoying rebellious cool teen type role. It’s always great to see Jija Yanin on screen, and as well as getting plenty of chances to show off her amazing skills, the film even allows her a few quieter scenes, suggesting that the martial arts star is developing quite nicely as an actress.
“The Kick” is a fun, fast paced and action packed film, and one which should definitely be enjoyed by any fans of the recent wave of Thai martial arts cinema, or genre aficionados in general. Prachya Pinkaew, Panna Rittikrai and the whole cast are all on great form, and the result is a film which though suitable for all ages never pulls its punches or falters in its desire to thrill and entertain.
Prachya Pinkaew (director) / Prachya Pinkaew, Jong-suk Lee (screenplay)
CAST: Jae-hyeon Jo … Moon
Ji-won Ye … Yoon
Petchtai Wongkamlao … Mum
JeeJa Yanin … Wawa
Tae-joo Na … Tae Yang
Kyung-suk Kim … Tae Mi
Kwan-hun Lee … Seok Du