A Thai superhero is reborn with middling results in “The Red Eagle.” Reboot of a popular 1960s pulp franchise arrives with special effects galore and a “Batman”-like protag burdened with the now de rigueur psychological hang-ups, but aside from a few eye-catching setpieces, there’s little excitement or cinematic flair on display. Souped up for young auds by usually super-inventive stylist Wisit Sasanatieng (“Tears of the Black Tiger”), pic underperformed on Oct. 7 local release, casting doubt over whether its “to be continued” tag will come to fruition. Overlong actioner has modest regional claims and much stronger ancillary prospects.
The Red Eagle
Original series, starring former boxer Mitr Chaibancha as Rome Rittikral/Red Eagle, kicked off in 1959 and came to a tragic halt in 1970 when Chaibancha died in an accident while shooting the final scene of “Insee thong” (The Golden Eagle).
While the original Rome Rittikral was a bumbling lush who transformed into a masked avenger after cocktail hour, this incarnation (played by Ananda Everingham) is a morphine-addicted ex-soldier with deep mental scarring after being hung out to dry by his superiors. Decked out in a black leather jumpsuit as Red Eagle, he is an extremely brutal vigilante whose preferred method of disposal is decapitation. Never permitted a smile or a witty aside, protag is a hard one for auds to embrace, even if he is washing the scum off the streets.
Launching a thinly veiled attack on contemporary Thai politics, Sasanatieng sets the action in a chaotic Bangkok circa 2016, where compromised prime minister Direk (Pornwut Sarasin) has reneged on a pre-election promise to halt construction of a nuclear power plant. While peaceful protest against crime and corruption is organized by Vasana (Yarinda Bunnag), an NGO leader and Direk’s former fiancee, Red Eagle is busy butchering drug dealers and any public official with a blemish on his record.
Requisite romance between Rome/Red Eagle and Vasana is OK, but inevitably takes a backseat to the avenger’s clash with the Matulee, a secret criminal society that enlists masked fighter Black Devil to do its bidding; a cracking duel between Red Eagle and Black Devil in an elevator shaft is one of the few genuinely exciting sequences. Attempting to curtail Red Eagle’s activities from the lawful side of the ledger are detective Chart (Wannasingh Prasertkul) and novelty sidekick Singh (Jonathan Hallman), a Sikh who proves expert at combat involving raw food and kitchen implements.
Special effects are mostly up to scratch, though some shaky CGI creeps in. Most surprising is the muted color scheme, especially considering the riotous hues in much of Sasanatieng’s previous work; here, it’s black, red and not much else. Ear-splitting soundtrack at least pays some sort of nod to the pic’s campy antecedents by ramping up Red Eagle’s signature retro theme at every moment he even looks like he’s leaping into action. Other tech work is pro.