Raging Phoenix DVD review

Thursday, 08 April 2010 18:00

Not long after her storming debut in “Chocolate”, Jija Yanin strikes back with this lavish martial arts extravaganza. A very lithe Yanin plays “Deu”, a wayward member of a rock band whose highly temperamental attitude quickly gets her dumped by the group. Her father’s dead, her mother neglects her and boyfriends cheat on her. Desperately miserable, Deu turns to drink and finds her life spiralling rapidly out of control.

At her lowest ebb, Deu is targeted by a vicious bunch of thugs called the Jaguar Gang. Bizarrely enough, they kidnap women possessing a special pheromone which is harvested for a sex drug. In the nick of time, our heroine is saved, sheltered and schooled by Sanim (Kazu Patrick Tang), leader of a small band of freedom fighters who employ an unusual fighting style called Mayraiyuth. Combining Drunken Boxing, break dancing and kick boxing, this unpredictable martial art uses alcohol to raise energy levels and turns pain into strength.

Raging Phoenix DVDDirected by Rashane Limtrakul, “Phoenix” takes the exotic oriental flavours from the production company’s previous hits (“Ong Bak”, “The Warrior King”), and morphs them into something new and yet still recognisable. Sanim and his scruffy, permanently sozzled and unseemly-named buddies (brothers Pigshit and Dogshit, along with Bullshit) make every action scene sparkle with innovation and unpredictability. Sometimes they fight solo; more often they form shifting tag-teams who double their effectiveness by fighting in concert, and often grapple other’s bodies to take down their opponents. For the most part their enemies are less interesting and act as fist fodder.

However, towards the end of the film they encounter more colourful and deadly henchmen and their boss called London, a terrifyingly muscular, Amazonian lady (played by Miss Asia Fitness 2009, Roongtawan Jindasing). She definitely gives as good as she gets!

I was quite wrong-footed by this movie. The early scenes suggest it is nothing more than a run-of-the-mill urban kung fu piece about warring gangs. Do not get me wrong, the choreography is beguiling from start to finish, it is just that the initial setting feels stale. Fortunately, it pans out into something more closely akin to “Tomb Raider” or more precisely, Jackie Chan’s highly entertaining “Armour of God”. Each fight scene takes on a more and more fantastical feel, and the locations become less and less like real-world places and more and more like destinations you would expect to see Indiana Jones swinging through. The music mirrors this transition, starting out with some dance and hip-hop numbers before segueing into a more orchestral, quite magical adventure film soundtrack.

The cinematography is occasionally quite breathtaking, especially when taking in the majestic training montage. Set on a sun-drenched beach, Deu and her sensei practice amongst some arched ruins, balancing precariously on their peaks. Set design and location choice are generally stunning, ranging from cemeteries with ancient temples, mock-dilapidated fairgrounds, and cavernous underground lairs spanned by creaking rope bridges. The fights make full use of these sets with actors energetically bounding, spinning and swinging all over them with seemingly little concern for their wellbeing!

Whilst the slight, mildly leftfield plot is not going to worry the Oscars, this is definitely a martial arts film that ticks most of the boxes. It is lively, entertaining, lovely to look at and genuinely refreshing. The near-two hour running time does feel slightly stretched, and makes it a draining experience, but that is the only (minor) complaint I could come up with.

“Raging Phoenix” (2009) is released on DVD and Blu-ray on 12 April 2010, courtesy of Cine Asia. The main feature is 109 minutes approx, certificate ‘15’ (despite what the sleeve shot says!). Special features include a trailer gallery, a reasonable selection of cast interviews, behind the scenes action footage, and a DTS HD Thai audio 5.1 track on the Blu-ray disc. The DVD retails for £17.99 and the Blu-ray for £24.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com.

 

Movie review: “Raging Phoenix”

 

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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