Dynamite Warrior

2006, Movie, NR, 103 mins

Review

DYNAMITE WARRIOR | KON FAI BIN
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To give Thai director Chalerm Wongpim's neo-spaghetti-Western its due, it's chock-full of things you don't see every day, including cowboys wrangling herds of lumbering water buffalo, a lone avenger who soars above cattle-rustling varmints on a giant, dynamite-powered rocket, and a bandit king so bestial he eats human flesh. But it's strictly a specialty item that will play best to fans of the most slapdash, preposterous kung-fu films of the 1970s.

Thailand, 1910: Villainous Lord Wang (Leo Putt) has made a deal with English company Meyers Machines Ltd to sell their newfangled tractors, but local farmers aren't interested. They'd rather plow the old way, with their water buffalo, so Wang helps a brutal bandit king (Somdet Kaew-lur) escape execution in order to send him to steal as many buffalo as he can and kill legitimate cattle trader Singh (Samart Payakarun). With all the buffalo gone, those backward farmers will have to buy tractors. But Wang didn't reckon with Jone Bang Fai (Dan Chupong), a righteous range roamer who's spent years laying waste to rustlers and legitimate cattle traders alike in hopes of finding the man who killed his parents. He catches up to Singh, who has a distinctive tattoo on his chest, at the same time the bandits do, and the bandits are routed. Wang appeals to the cursed Black Wizard (Panna Ritthikrai) for help in killing Singh; the wizard prescribes a charm involving the menstrual blood of a virgin born under a powerful astrological sign — fortunately, his lovely daughter E-sao (Kanyapak Suworakood) fits the bill — and he and Wang trick Jone Bang Fai into helping. But there's more to this business than meets the eye, and many lengthy Muay Thai battles are required to sort things out.

Unlike the insanely lyrical TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER (2000), which warps the conventions of American Westerns into surreal poetry, DYNAMITE WARRIOR goes for straightforward action, to the degree that you can call action involving scimitar-wielding dwarves and heavily manipulated scenes involving tough guys possessed by animal spirits "straightforward." Wongpim pays tribute to classic Italian Westerns in his face-hugging close-ups, but his film is more silly than existentially anarchic, and its exotic quirkiness wears thin quickly. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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