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  Kick, The Just Add JeeJa
Year: 2011
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Stars: Jo Jae-hyeon, Ye Ji-won, Petchtai Wongkamlao, JeeJa Yanin, Na Tae-joo, Kim Kyung-suk, Lee Kwan-hun, Kim Yi-roo, Thanathep Sucharitchan, Jamruen Somboon, Sumret Muengput, Sarawoot Kumsorn, Sintushet Babphasuay, Nipon Jitkert, Narongrit Pomphu
Genre: Comedy, Thriller, Martial ArtsBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Moon (Jo Jae-hyeon) has always regretted missing his chance to win a gold medal at the Olympics in his chosen sport of taekwondo, but his wife Yoon (Ye Ji-won) was pregnant at the time and he thinks that's why their team faltered at the final hurdle. Now, twenty years later he is the head of a martial arts school from Korea which has become renowned for its high quality, something his whole family participates in from his wife to their three offspring, teenagers Tae Yang (Na Tae-joo) and Tae Mi (Kim Kyung-suk) and little Typhoon (Thanathep Sucharitchan), putting on shows to demonstrate this.

But they are about to see their abilities pushed to the limit when they get involved with a band of thieves who are dead set on stealing a priceless Kris kinfe, and the family just so happened to be passing as the crime was in progress, resulting in a big scuffle in public as they confront one another. Moon's brood stops the baddies, but gain an enemy in Suck Doo (Lee Kwan-hun), the head of the gang who gives the cops the slip, and contrives a way to both get revenge and twist their arm to have them participate in a new heist to make sure Suck Doo gets his hands on that antique artefact. The stage is therefore set for lots of people beating each other up.

But this time, for producer and director Prachya Pinkaew, one of the kings of the Thai martial arts movie scene, there was a more inclusive air to the project not simply because it was a Thai-South Korean co-production but as he was evidently keen to bring in the family friendly audience. Sure, it still featured people getting seven bells battered out of them (sometimes with ceiling fans), but Moon and his nearest and dearest carried on a tradition of entertainment which had them sort of a Partridge Family of taekwondo, no, they didn't sing but they did have a van to drive around in, and Tae Yang was very much the David Cassidy of the movie, having a lesson to learn about life before the end credits rolled.

Those credits, incidentally, included a "don't try this at home, kids!" montage of the cast members accidentally smacking each other when the stunts went wrong and in some cases carted off in ambulances, so you couldn't say they were not throwing themselves into their work, even if you could say that Thai health and safety regulations for film sets might need a look at. But that sense of the actors genuinely risking life and limb, or limb at any rate, was what offered what to all intents and purposes was a fun item of fluff with comedy lines and slapstick more of an edge than it might otherwise have presented. When they flung themselves at one another in the heat of unarmed combat, they certainly did not hold back.

Otherwise this was your basic message about sticking by your family through thick and thin, all very noble as Moon's folks were contrasted with the amoral Suck Doo's machinations, his flint-hearted henchmen (and woman) no real match for the togetherness that our heroes bring out. Although it's still a close run thing, as Typhoon is kidnapped to make sure they switch the priceless knife with a valueless copy while staging one of their shows, which does lead to a big fight taking up most of the rest of the movie. Adding interest was when Moon and company are hiding out with buffoonish relative Uncle Moon (Petchtai Wongkamlao) and Tae Yang wanders off on his own: who should he meet but JeeJa Yanin, making for her fans a too rare appearance in a movie? Well, he meets the character she's playing anyway, and she becomes part of the ensemble who take on the small army of baddies by the end, though it's the inclusion of wildlife like cheeky monkeys and elephants which adds a touch of eccentricity. So yes, family friendly, a little banal, if you didn't mind headcracking violence.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Prachya Pinkaew  (1962 - )

Thai action director who made his debut with the hard-hitting martial arts film Ong-Bak. His follow up was the similarly themed Tom Yum Goong aka Warrior King, aka The Protector, again featuring stuntman-turned-action star Tony Jaa. He went on to a string of tries at topping his biggest hit, including Chocolate (making a star of JeeJa Yanin), Raging Phoenix, Elephant White and The Kick.

 
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