Plot: After becoming a debt collector to pay her mothers hospital bills, a young autistic woman with extraordinary martial arts skills runs afoul of a ruthless Thai triad boss, with ties to both her ailing mother, and her estranged Japanese Yakuza boss father.
Review: Hmmm how do I best describe CHOCOLATE? Well, in a way, I guess its a bit like the movie RAIN MAN. Like that film, this centers on an autistic person forced by circumstance to adapt to the real world for the first time in their relatively sheltered life, but instead of Dustin Hoffman, we get a smoking hot twenty year old Thai chick named Yanin Vismitananda, and instead of being good at counting cards and JEOPARDY, our heroine here is good at kicking the living shit out of people.
Also- no Tom Cruise or Bananarama songs...
Overall, I had a great time with CHOCOLATE. While the convoluted storyline doesnt make a lick of sense, and the film is far from polished (or even coherent at times), I still had a blast and a half watching it. Director Prachya Pinkaew has got to be one of the most bug nuts action film directors working nowadays, and his films never fail to entertain.
While the action scenes arent as suicidal as the ones in ONG BAK, and theres no bat shit crazy scene like the one in TOM YUM GOONG where Nathan Jones chucks a baby elephant through a glass window, CHOCOLATE does have what I believe is the first intellectually disabled action star in the history of cinema.
Which brings me to the films biggest asset- newcomer Yanin Vistananda, who stars as Zen, our autistic heroine. While Im not sure I agree with director Pinkaews theory that an autistic person can become an invincible warrior by watching his Tony Jaa films on TV, I think hes really discovered a great new action starlet in the cute as a button Vistananda. Not only can she seemingly handle herself almost as well as Tony Jaa, but she also has a kind of natural charisma, that truthfully, Ive always felt Jaa somewhat lacked (although Ive yet to see ONG BAK 2- which is supposedly awesome). I expect big things from Vistananda in the future.
Of course, the other great thing about CHOCOLATE is the abundance of awesome action sequences. Although it takes about thirty minutes to really get going, once the action starts, it really never lets up. The final forty minutes of the film is essentially one epic action sequence featuring the following:
-another autistic warrior- albeit an evil one, who has a wicked showdown with Zen
-a killer army of drag queens
-some crazy swordplay, courtesy of Zens MIA dad, who shows up channeling Sonny Chiba, slicing and dicing his way through a seemingly hundreds-strong army of thugs
-a nifty parkour inspired rooftop chase, and finally
-touching family melodrama, complete with an over the top Thai pop song playing in the background
All in all, CHOCOLATE is a freakin awesome action flick, and a must see for action fans, such as myself. Its too bad that the studio distributing the film in North America is giving it a fairly limited theatrical release before sending it to DVD, as this is the type of film that demands to be seen in a big theater with an audience that digs this type of thing (it would have killed at the FANTASIA film fest here in Montreal). If you happen to be in one of the markets showing the film theatrically, I highly recommend you gather up some friends, have a few dozens beers, and head off to the multiplex to check this flick out. Youll have a blast!