Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
Towatchai Ladloy, Panna Rittikrai
What's it about
After causing the death of several villagers, a voodoo practioner is dispatched with extreme prejudice, only to return five years later with an unstoppable martial arts homunculus bent on killing everyone in sight.
Is it good movie?
Dr. Duang is not having a good day. Not only has his eternal life potion actually killed a few people, but he failed to kill all of the witnesses himself, and they have gotten the village chief all up in his face. They proceed to hack the crap out of him with machetes and dump his brown butt off a cliff and into the river. Five years later, a mysterious killing machine appears in the village, and boy is he rude. Not only does he not utter so much as a single grunt throughout the entire film, but he is intent on owning every mofo in the place. Add to that a group of Japanese students looking to study old relics and a group of Chinese treasure hunters looking for "holy metal" and you see there are plenty of asses in which the silent assassin may stick his foot. After an interminable amount of kung fu fighting we learn that, holy shit!, it was Dr. Duang beyond the whole thing. Now the survivors have two seemingly unstoppable foes to best. It's tough in the Thai jungle, baby.
I would be remiss in not mentioning the same thing that every other review of this movie has said: THIS IS NOT A TONY JAA FILM. He appears very briefly in the film, to get smacked down by the assassin. This was a favor done for him early in his career by the real star of the movie and Jaa's mentor, Panna Rittikrai, who played the spirited killer. This movie really belongs to him. Not only was it his assembled stunt team that comprises the fighters in the film, but he directs as well as stars. He is fascinating every time the camera is pointed at him. Alas, every time it points somewhere else it is annoying as hell. The script plays like a rejected Scooby Doo plot, and the confluence of visitors to this remote village are incongruous and unnecessary, as well as most of them being pathologically annoying. Most of the film is "Get him!" "He's too strong, run away!" "Why are you chasing me?" "Get him!" It is cute for a while, but spread out over 90-minutes it gets old in a hurry.
There really isn't all that much to say about the nuts and bolts of this film. It was done in 1994, and only released to capitalize on the Ong-Bak fervor, which is too bad, since not only is Tony Jaa Rittikrai's protege, but Rittikrai has been involved in over 50 Thai martial art films, including the stunt choreography on Ong-Bak and directing Ong-Bak 2 and The Bodyguard. He deserved the respect of being prominent on the cover. The film is basically a showcase for the talents of the stunt team, and there it succeeds. There just isn't much of a movie built up around it. Just a loose agglomeration of anecdotal and bizarre elements strung together to have enough people to show fighting for a feature-length runtime. And then there is the weird-ass impromptu music video 30-minutes in. The village chief's daughter sings a song while being paddled in a canoe. I thought I had had a stroke or something and was hallucinating.
On a side note, I had a complete inability to tell who was Thai, who was supposed to be Chinese, and who was supposed to be Japanese. At one point a group of thieves asks one of the groups what nationality they are, so I don't feel quite so stupid about it.
Video / Audio
Video: A widescreen presentation of a crappy print. It is a decent transfer, the source material seems to be the problem. Colors go in and out, and so forth. But when watching a 16-year old Thai kung fu film, that kind of adds to the experience.
Audio: You've got your choice of two Dolby 2.0 tracks: one in English and one in Thai, along with optional English subtitles. Against my normal m.o. I suggest going for the English dubbing. The subtitles are rife with grammatical errors and sometimes seem to be the transcriptors taking the piss out of the film. And the dubbing is actually less annoying than the original actors' ADR.
Talk about annoying? I navigate to the Features menu, and am told to put the second disc in. But I only received one disc. Imagine how knowledgeable and awe-inspiring this review would be, truly a review for the ages, if only I had those special features. *sigh*
At the end of the day, Spirited Killer is a workable martial arts film, even if it doesn't make a damn lick of sense. The characters and subplots are so retarded that they do provide a certain level of entertainment. At the very least, it will be interesting for Tony Jaa fans to see from whom he learned his moves.