“The Tiger Blade” is the latest attempt by Thai filmmakers to capitalize on the sudden success of Thai action films, made popular by Tony Jaa’s exhilarating “Ong Bak”, and recently followed up with the satisfying ass kicker “Tom Yum Goong”. Theeratorn Siriphunvaraporn’s “Tiger Blade” promises to take a more fantastical approach to carnage making, utilizing your standard cops and robbers setting but involving characters with magical abilities, such as one tough’s power to “cancel out” bullets with a magical talisman, while another has made himself bulletproof with the help of black magic. Alas, for a movie titled after a magical sword, it’s amusing to note that the sword makes only occasional cameo appearances.
To combat a new, evil scourge led by a rebel foreign Commander intent on rebuilding his Thai-subjugated nation, supercop Yos (Atsadawut Luengsuntorn), who is a sort of freelance superagent for the Thai Government, seeks out and finds (in record time, no less) the Tiger Blade, which has the power to null black magic. Helping Yos in his quest for truth, justice, and the Thai way (not necessarily in that order) is bountiful police babe Deung Dao (Phimonrat Phisarayabud), a fat comic sidekick with spousal problems, and a computer geek who does computer geek stuff. And oh yeah, for some reason Yos’ boss seems to have a closet for an office.
Constructed out of a script that was in all probability written around the action sequences, “The Tiger Blade” is as nonsensical as Thai action movies have gotten in the last few years, with a final 30 minutes that is completely devoid of logic. In its quest to keep the audience from becoming bored by its lackluster story, action scenes pop out of nowhere every 5 minutes or so without fail. The film opens with Yos being ambushed in a hotel while having sex with a prostitute (who falls in love with him after the failed assassination attempt), where Yos kills about a half dozen guys. It then proceeds to a nightclub, where Yos kills another half dozen more. The bodycount piles up at an astounding rate, which provides more unintentional humor given the film’s odious attempts at censoring out “unacceptable behavior” with digital pixelation. More on this later.
Matters aren’t helped by a mediocre cast, including star Luengsuntorn, who looks convincing enough trading punches and kicks with the bad guys, but is working with dead money when the guns are put away. His supposed comical and gradual romantic interaction with pretty but tough talking female partner Deung Dao is mired by Phisarayabud’s nonexistent personality. Comic relief is provided by the fat sidekick and one other scene, where Yos realizes that his young, virginal sister is not so virginal after all. The rest of the film is over-the-top wire-fu, endless backstabbing and unmotivated plot machinations, and exactly two uses of the titular Tiger Blade.
While the film’s many action-packed moments are appropriately wild and unrealistic given the film’s premise, it’s also mostly silly and cartoonish, and highly derivative of action movies from Hong Kong in the last 10 years. Director Theeratorn Siriphunvaraporn also shows an unhealthy disregard for coherent storytelling. The film is full of badly scripted moments, including what is supposed to be Yos and Dao’s eventual “bonding” — somewhat hard to achieve when Dao shows up for about 10 minutes of total screentime in the film’s first hour. Where exactly did these two find time to fall in love?
The film itself is a mess, the kind of mindless mush that only Hollywood used to be able to crank out. A major Caveat Emptor also goes out to readers interested in grabbing the DVD. They should know that the Thai Government, in their infinite wisdom, has instituted what appears to be an industry wide censorship program that is at best unhelpful, and at worst reeks of stunted intelligence. Scenes of people smoking cigarettes are heavily censored with a digital blur, and whenever someone is pointing a gun within 5 feet of someone else, the dreaded blur returns, just big enough to cover the gun, although the intention of the scene remains clear. This is doubly horrific for cinema purist, as half of the screen becomes blotted by an unnatural Vaseline-like blur whenever characters engage in Mexican standoffs, a plot gimmick Siriphunvaraporn falls back on constantly, thus worsening the situation. (For examples, see the screen grabs in this review; those are directly from the retail DVD.)
As an exercise in pointless style over substance, “The Tiger Blade” rates a 2.5, but loses a full point for the childish pixelation of “offending” material. Curiously, a scene where a woman is brutally beaten to a pulp while she is being raped on a floor has arrived intact, minus censoring. I guess in Thailand beating the crap out of a woman while you’re raping her is not as “harmful to society” as a character leaning against a wall smoking. If this type of censoring continues out of Thailand , even on DVDs geared for foreign markets, look for a complete absence of Thai movies in the International market in a few short years.
Theeratorn Siriphunvaraporn (director)
CAST: Atsadawut Luengsuntorn …. Yosthana
Phimonrat Phisarayabud …. Deung Dao
Srungsuda Lawanprasert …. G.I. Jenjila
Amornrit Sriphung …. Mahesak
Chalad Na Songkhla …. Five Bullets Bandit