Genre: Action (Martial Arts)
Starring: JeeJa Yanin
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Yet another that has been sitting on the shelf too long; a film from the man responsible for Ong Bak, featuring an adorable little girl doing the ass kicking. Quite frankly I suspect a number of you need little more encouragement than that. For the rest I suppose I should get on with explaining what it's all about, as quite frankly the beginning is a little more confusing than it really needed to be. Zin is a beautiful women who happens to be the mistress of a big Thai Mafia kingpin. She can have anything she wants and dutifully follows him to all his “engagements,” largely consisting of removing limbs until people give him money. Anything she wants, that is, except for her Japanese husband who happens to be some sort of Yakuza working in Thailand or something, but that never really gets explained. We just get one scene later on of a grumpy old man surrounded by samurai swords frowning at him when he drops a pin badge to announce his leaving of the clan.
So naturally, the mafia kingpin gets pissed by all this but decides to spare their lives, so long as he never sees them together again. So after one night of passion, the two decide that he should bugger off back to Japan unless they incur his wrath, which would be fine except for the fact that neither of them thought to use protection and 9 months later, out pops Zin's daughter, Zen. A “special” child in every sense of the word, she has tremendous difficulty in understanding base concepts but quickly demonstrates a bizarre talent for her reflexes; her and Moom – a fat kid homeless kid (don't ask how that works) they fostered after seeing him being bullied – taking to the streets to show off her talents. Soon Zin falls ill with Leukaemia, and their street work isn't exactly paying the bills so when they uncover a book of all the people who owe Zin money, well it's time the duo went out to collect, but it isn't long before the mafia kingpin catches wind of what they're up to. Oh, and Zen's other ability was to perfectly mimic movements, which combined with her love for martial arts flicks comes in pretty handy.
As you might expect it does all feel like a bit much, and the fact they try to race through all this in the space of twenty minutes does little to help, but as confusing as it is it never fails to be interesting. Part of the films purpose is not just in the action sequences but in demonstrating the capabilities of what the body can do; constantly is it littered with scenes of her in the background doing tricks by bouncing sweets off the bowl into her mouth or catching throwing knives and looking adorably bewildered. That said, it really is the action sequences you should be waiting for, for JeeJa Yanin has her own style to offer; that 'Summer-Glau-from-Serenity' level of adorable insanity combined with ass kicking; her mental difficulties allowing her to look adorable and confused right before she snaps, pulls your trousers down and does a handstand to kick you in the face. There's even a showdown with a boy with his own disability causing him to nervously twitch everywhere; powerful because of his unpredictability, testing her ability to mimic his moves and use them against him. Two 'special children' in a martial arts battle with one another; it actually comes across a lot less offensive than it sounds.
As with all of this man's work all the stunts are real – no wires or camera tricks – and despite a large number of them looking downright impossible, it helps when you realise it took two years of training for her to be capable of doing all this (and if you have the extra's, all the bloody knees and broken bones too); two years well spent, given that her style is distinct enough that I can't think of another like it (except, as I already mentioned, Summer Glau from Serenity), and each sequence builds up on one another. If there was any real flaw it would be with the choreography, at times using too many basic high kicks and punches and not enough 'Jackie Chan-esque' sequences that make better use of the setting and the makeshift weapons at her disposal (even if there is clear some influence has been taken from his work) that show her at her best and make her so oddly endearing to watch. There are also times where it feels a little rough around the edges, lacking the grace of the likes of Meiko Kaji or indeed, Glau again, but it's hard to expect more from a debut film. Besides, she is cute, and that was the point after all, to watch a cute little insane girl kick ass, and that she does.