No-nonsense action and an all-nonsense plot are the delightful ingredients of "Dynamite Warrior," a delirious warlock's brew of Thai mysticism, rural parable and tasty old-school chopsocky.
No-nonsense action and an all-nonsense plot are the delightful ingredients of “Dynamite Warrior,” a delirious warlock’s brew of Thai mys-ticism, rural parable and tasty old-school chopsocky. Though it may lack the star power Tony Jaa brought to “Ong-bak: The Thai Warrior” and “Tom-Yum-Goong” (both helmed by Prachya Pinkaew, credited here as a producer), this gleefully daft pic about an Inigo Montoya-like avenger is executed with enough kinetic flair and silly showmanship to satisfy Asian action enthusiasts in limited Stateside release, with dynamite payoff in ancillary.
Set in rural 1920s Thailand, the pic establishes a thoroughly goofy tone early on, as young fighter and TNT expert Jone Bang Fai (Dan Chupong) rides into battle atop a bamboo rocket. Jone is a local Robin Hood of sorts, stealing buffalo from thieves and returning them to their owners while constantly looking out for a man with a distinctive tattoo on his chest — the man who long ago murdered his parents.
Looking to capitalize on this situation is Lord Waeng (Puttipong Sriwat), an oily opportunist trying to hawk expensive tractors to poor farmers. Realizing his technology can’t compete with the farmers’ buffalo, Lord Waeng hatches a scheme to wipe out the herds entirely. To that end, he enlists a violent escaped convict (Somdej Keawlue) with a taste for human flesh, and the evil Black Wizard (Thai B-movie vet Panna Rittikrai, who also supervised the action).
Meanwhile, Jone believes he’s tracked down his parents’ killer, Sing (Samart Tipthamai), a warlock of nearly invincible power who can be made vulner-able only through contact with a virgin’s menstrual blood — not exactly the sort of thing readily available at the local apothecary. Fortunately, the Black Wizard’s beautiful daughter, Sao (Kanyapak Suwannakoot), fits the bill nicely, though her habit of making puppy eyes at Jone, and the score’s tendency to go weak at the knees in response, suggest things won’t go entirely as planned.
Though the convolutions multiply with a madman’s sense of rhythm and narrative proportion, the increasingly outlandish story goes down with surpris-ing smoothness. “Dynamite Warrior” wouldn’t be the first film in which the plot serves as a mere place-holder for the action, but the elaborately outre twists, which at times openly invite viewers to laugh, provide their own kind of giddy satisfaction.
Ironically for a movie with a not-so-subtle anti-technology message — and in a way quite different from “Ong-bak,” which flaunted its CG-free stunt work like a badge of honor — “Dynamite” spices up its otherwise straightforward fight scenes with jet-propelled rockets (which Jone launches from a covered wagon) and transparently obvious digital wirework. Key beneficiaries of the latter device are Sing’s vicious, animal-like minions, who have the power to leap long distances.
Pic’s nearly wall-to-wall action has an unpolished, rough-hewn quality that feels appropriate to the setting and period, as do some of the sartorial touches (both Sing and Jone fight while wearing straw hats). Yet the clashes are coherently staged and lensed, with a clear appreciation for the sight of bodies moving uninterrupted through space. One drawback is the occasional overuse of slow-mo, which is intended to heighten impact but is often applied at the wrong instances.
His physical prowess aside, Chupong (who starred in Rittikrai’s “Born to Fight”) registers as a fairly bland presence here, though lip-smacking support-ing turns more than compensate. Rittikrai delivers a literally flesh-crawling turn as the Black Wizard, while Sriwat, whose smug good looks only add to Lord Waeng’s hilarious sense of entitlement, comes off as both corrupt and hilariously whiny. Lord Waeng’s surprising transfiguration during the climactic battle — introducing an element of demonic possession to an already murky supernatural brew — catapults both pic and performer to new heights of comic lunacy.