written and directed by the Pang Brothers
starring Pawalit Mongkolpisit, Premsinee Ratansopha, Patharawarin Timkul, Pisek Intrakanchit,
Employing a vast array of film techniques, this one whizzes by consumed with rage, tenderness and the terrible longing for redemption. This is the Pang’s Thai attempt at the story which they would later blow up with Nick Cage in the role as the bad boy Joe afflicted with just a little tenderness.
Our heroes Jo (Intrakanchit) and Kong (Mongkolpisit) are rough hands who kill people for a living. Kong is a deaf-mute who has been boxed around a bit, particular during youth where we see his trauma in a series of black and white flashbacks. We learn of that moment when life turns and he becomes the type of man that can take a life without considering the consequences. He gets so deep in this life and the film reflects his claustrophobia with a barrage of extreme closeups that often make it difficult to follow the narrative. The story follows Kong’s development into a hard hitter who kills as it is expected of him. But then when he is sick he stumbles into a pharmacy and is immediately smitten with the girl behind the counter. Her name is Fon (Ratansopha) and she is equally charged by Kong. So they spend some goofy time together as Fon attempts to get inside Kong’s head. She is ebullient and he remains distant as he is throughout the course of the film. It is impossible to get to Kong and it’s interesting to consider whether or not this has anything to do with his deafness. Do not deaf characters offer access into their worlds without a terrible amount of scrutiny?
So, the simple story goes with Kong and Jo taking on their hits with grace and aplomb. Jo’s girl Aom (Timkul) is a luxury item, a firestarter with a quick grin and a soft spot for the idea of hard steel. At one point she is raped and Jo goes after the men responsible. He quickly puts out that light and moves on to the next one. The editing just snaps off image after image and the whirlwind almost causes whiplash. It’s a surefire way to generate some electricity and it works for the most part in this film. The story can get convoluted at times and you have to pay strict attention or you are unceremoniously lost. There aren’t any sharply laid out indicators as are apparent in most films (including the updated version). You are simply dropped in the middle of a few lives with no road maps and a none-too-clear motivation for those caught in this high-speed drama.
Overall, this is a film that requires some work. It is certainly thrilling and mesmeric as many of the scenes are truly gorgeous and worth remembering. It’s a terrific love story and filled with a great deal of tenderness that brings a unique focus to this genre. Occasionally the pace slows down so that we can focus on the interaction between Kong and Fon. It really is the center of the film as Kong attempts to find something, anything in his world that can bring meaning. Fon does this and there is a scene that will remain unnamed toward the end that is as heartbreaking as anything you could ever hope to find in cinema.