Friday, February 24, 2012


... You had me at the title!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. Girly intro. However, I (Kelly) am all alone this week as MJ has had to leave town on family business. We wish her a safe journey, and a speedy return back to us here in MN. In the meantime, I will do my best to keep this short, sweet, to the point, yet entertaining enough that you'll come back next week.

This week I am reviewing "Chocolate", a 2008 film starring the amazing JeeJa Yanin in her acting debut. The film was written by Chukiat Sakveerakul (13: Game of Death) and Napalee (The Protector). The film was directed by one of our favorites, Prachya Pinkaew (Ong Bak 1&2, 13: Game of Death, The Protector, Raging Pheonix, Protector 2... Eeeeee!!!)

This is one of my all time favorite movies. Not because of an amazing storyline, or the cinematography, or even the best soundtrack. Rather, it is because of the insane stunts and highly athletic butt-kicking, done by a woman... in a lead role no less. The athleticism and beat-down power of Jeeja Yanin keeps me coming back again, and again. Bravo Ms. Yanin. Bravo!!!

OK, so...the premise of the story is that Zen (Yanin) is a young, autistic child who's mother (Zin) is a former Thai gangster, and whose father (Masashi) is a member of the Yakuza. It really is a very Romeo and Juliet love affair, resulting in tragedy, brutality, a baby and a lost toe (shudder), broken bones, re-arranged spleen, knives, guns, flies... But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Our movie begins with a whole lot of backstory. Zin (the mother) was the former girlfriend of No. 8 (I... errr...Is that supposed to sound tough?), who is the leader of the most brutal Thai gang around... in Thailand. When not trafficking drugs, they spend their time muscling local business owners with their pistol toting Thai Tranny Brigade , gathering up "protection" money. (I'm still researching the situation with Thailand and Transgender peeps as vicious mobsters, as they appear in many martial arts films from as far back as 55 years ago and always seem to have a fashionable, yet deadly score to settle.)


We find ourselves in the middle of a clan standoff between the Thai gang and the Japanese gang. Insert Masusha (the father), an extremely handsome Yakuza heir here. This is one tall, deadly drink of water who could pretty much use his eyes to sneak up on you like a Ninja and kill you inside in complete silence. Aaaannd... you'd probably enjoy it. There is a nugget of information inserted about how Masusha is fascinated with "the imperfect". This man is all about Wabi-sabi! Save that tid-bit for later.

NOW, seated directly across from him with a gun pointed at her head is the amazingly beautiful Zin. She has a scar on her eyebrown from a torn out piercing, thus making her "imperfect". (insert previously stated tid-bit here) But other than that... this is one amazingly well put together woman. There is a heated exchange, Zin gets her hair pin snapped in half, Masushi is now enthralled with this woman.

Zin disarms and nearly pistol-whips the daylights out one of the Japanese gang members. It is here that the No. 8 states his disdain for the Japanese, and lays out a pretty severe threat. This threat continues to be a pivotal element through the remainder of the movie. So, tuck this nugget away for later reference as well.

These two deadly criminals (Masushi and Zin) hook-up secretly and fall in love. No. 8 finds out and the fists of justi...uhhh... injustice fall swiftly. No. 8 mows down some Yakuza gangsters and threatens to destroy both Masashi and Zin for their betrayal. And then No. 8 shoots himself in the foot. Yes. He shoots himself. I'm not entirely sure as to why, but his level of badassery and disdain in noteworthy, and that is your second nugget that you need to tuck away for later.

Zin sends Masushi back to Japan, never to be seen again. Zin then moves into a flat and gives birth to autistic baby Zen... and THEN the trouble begins! Through a montage of heartbreaking scenes involving the diagnosis of Zin's baby and the struggles of being a single parent to a child with special needs, you find yourself TOTALLY absorbed into the story. Zin is told that her child will require special care and attention. In need of help and encouragement, Zin sends a letter to Mashushi... but the letters are intercepted by none other than...

Look at how bad I am in Leopard print!

...the infamous No. 8!

 (Duh, duh, DUUUUUUUH)

No. 8 decides to visit Zin, along with his right hand man... woman... err... Tran. (Again, I'm not sure why all Transgender folks in Martial Arts movies are brutal gangsters...) Shortly after his arrival in Zin's home, he follows up on his earlier threat by chopping off Zin's toe and keeping it as a token. (shudder) That just makes me cringe all over!

So, fast forward a few years and witness the magic unfold as Zen starts to learn through observation and assilimation. What is she learning? Math? No. Ballet? No. FREAKIN' MUAY THAI BRUTALITY!!! Heck yeah! She watches the men next door to her flat practicing with the punching, and the kicking, and the flying knees... So, she starts kicking the crap out of a wooden post. With time, practice, love, and a dramatic montage, our delicate flower blossoms into a teenager OF DOOM!!! Harbinger of the fist!
Zen is now a teenager and, as one could only expect, she and her mother are living in poverty, but rich in their love. Also, they have picked up an orphaned kid along the way named Moom. Zin is diagnosed with some form of cancer. They cannot afford the rent, food, medications, etc. So, every day while Zin is resting, Zen and Moom head out to the public square to perform tricks involving strangers paying to throw crap at Zen's head.

Now, in any other context it would be entirely frowned upon to throw things at special needs kids. However, in the absolute confines of this movie, Zen has lighting fast reflexes... and it makes for a great "danger story" within our main story. And yes... DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME KIDS!!! Cousin Ricky CANNOT, and I repeat CANNOT stop a jackknife thrown at his head. He will get hurt. You will get grounded! Everyone loses.


Some thugs happen upon the scene and toss a knife at Zen's face, which she catches with her bare hand... which is entirely awesome!!! The thugs decide that they're going to "jump" Zen and Moom for their cash. Bad idea??? Absolutely! Moom tries to run while Zen delivers an absolute beat-down. (see clip below)

Shortly thereafter, and as if the relationship between the mother and daughter couldn't get any more endearing and heartbreaking, Zin begins her cancer treatment and is hospitalized. The doctors cannot continue her treatment if they don't come up with some cold hard cash soon. It is here, while Zen watches "The Protector" in the background (see the previous "Gimme My Damned Elephants" blog post) that Moom stumbles upon Zin's old bribes book. He has no idea what it is. He only knows that it says a lot of people owe "Auntie" a lot of money.

The next morning Moom and Zen head out to collect payment. Things go badly. Zen whigs out. The boss of the ice factory sets her up to get a beat down... which turns out entirely tragic for him and his henchmen. So, with a little Bruce Lee "Huuuuuwaaaaaaaa"and a whole lot of "TASTE MY SHOE" style kicking, the battle is won. The money is Zen's.


Now, this pretty much sets the pace for the rest of the film as Moom and Zen go down the checklist, kickin' butt and checkin' off names. Of course, keep in mind that they have NO IDEA what the money is for. They just figure it's loan money or something. SSSSOOOO... they go to a sweets factory, and there is of course a conflict that boils down into fighting. The guys there get stomped, kicked, pants'd, and just overall get the holy H*LL beat outta them...


And then there's the outdoor butcher shop (EEEEEewwww...), riddled with hanging pig guts (EEEEewwww^2), raw meat and LOADS of flies (blerch-o-rama), of which Zen is afraid of. Battle lost due to fear of flies??? Absolutely not. She just puts on a snorkel mask and Moom, who has been relatively useless up to this point, cracks out the dual tennis shaped bug zappers to clear the path for the a$$-kicking. (note my cute insertion of dollar signs in reference to fighting for money. I'm so clever sometimes...) There are meat hooks, butcher knives, pig carcasses, and some rusty nails in this one. Hang on to your seat, cause this scene's got a high "squeamish" rating!!!

AAaaand... It's Zen for the win. And, you'd think they would perhaps take a break from all of the danger in order to stop by the hospital and pay Zin's bill. Nope. It is right about now that Zin figure's out what's going on, the Thai gang starts realizing that Zen has been collecting "their" money. and they decide to send a message by returning Zin's rotted toe to Zen... inside of her chocolate candy container. Zin realized that there is major trouble a-brewin', so she send Moom to get a message to Misashi through the Japanese restaurant where she works. Aaaand... the trannies show up and kidnap Moom. Masashi gets the message and sends men to protect his family. Shortly after his arrival at Zin's flat, the Tranny brigade shows up in eveningwear. Go-go boots, guns and glamour galore! But... they all die in crazy short gunfight. Realizing that he's gonna...

In the meantime, Zin begins to worry about Moom's mysterious absence. She goes to a payphone positioned in a bamboo forest and calls Moom's phone. It is here that she learns of the kidnapping of Moom, the murder of the Japanese protector, and the plan to snuff her, Zen, and Masashi all out at once. PPPPPPPPPerfection!!! But, they forgot to carry the one and factor in the following:

1) Zen beat the crap out of a bunch of guys for getting between her mom and money.
2) Zen has utter devotion to her mother.
3) Masashi is Yakuza. You will die.
4) If Masashi doesn't get you, Zen's knees/feet/fists most certainly will

i.e. I hope all y'all have a good chiropractor you can call on. 'Cause you're gonna need it!

OK, so... we wrap the whole movie with an epic, 10 minute fight scene involving a Japanese tea house, a dojo, a beatdown from a kid that appears to have an unexplained mental/seizure disorder, Yakuza with guns, the return of Masashi with a Samurai sword, the stabbing death of her mother, and a concrete jungle fight that broke heads, noses, legs, backs, and pretty much everything else... FO SHIZZLE!

The film closes with Masashi taking his beloved, "imperfect" daughter back to Japan. All is right with the world. Roll credits.

Now, though I wouldn't NORMALLY do this, I would like to add that people got hurt making this movie. Really, really, reeeeeeeally hurt. I don't mean, "Aaah crap. I totally banged my knee on that thing" type of hurt. I'm talking:

"busted open heads, glass in your eye, you're going to be wearing that neck brace for a while" 

type hurt. SO, to that end, I want to tip my hat to everyone who made this movie happen and put their butts on the line. You're work is MORE than appreciated by this martial arts movie maven!

So, as I stated before, I adore this movie for the fighting. The story is pretty heartbreaking, but the fighting keeps the teary-eyed moments short. I recommend you rent it. It can be found on netflix "Watch Instantly", rented online through iTunes for $4.99, or even rented at my fav rental store here in Robbinsdale, Video Universe... conveniently located on Bottineau Blvd, between RC Liquors and Broadway Pizza.

Have a great weekend everyone!!!

- Kelly

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