Friday, July 13, 2012

Spirited Killer - A Thai Murder Jacket Musical...

OKAY... So, when you find yourself out at the video store, picking through the piles upon piles of never heard before martial arts films and you stumble upon a "Featuring Tony Jaa" film that you've never seen, and you think "OOooh. Awesome. I could always use 30% MORE Tony Jaa in my life!" ... please note that anything produced before 2003 (Ong Bak) features Tony Jaa for a total of 3 minutes, and he's usually the guy in the back row, second from the left, taking a punch to the face.

And that folks is where our blog begins, with the film "Spirited Killer", FEATURING TONY JAA!!!! (for 3 minutes. Literally)

Now, all is not lost on this 1994 release by Neung, Towatchai Ladloy, and Panna Rittikrai. Why? Because Panna Rittikrai IS Tony Jaa's Trainer and the head of the "Amazing Flying Elbows" stunt team.

Ok. That's not their real name. But this film has brought out both the best... and the worst in us with the giggling and one-liners. So, just accept that this blog is going to be insanely funny, and read on for maximum entertainment.

OK. So, our story begins deep in the Thai jungle. But this is no ordinary jungle because it exists in a vacuum, having absolutely NO ambient sound... like birds, bugs, or monkey's. And amazingly enough, Thai sounds a lot like bad English overdub.

But we digress.

Now, we can't tell you anything about the village, where it is, who the people are, or even the year, because both sets of credits are entirely in Thai. (Yes. There really are two sets of credits, 10 minutes apart.) HOWEVER, we do know that there is some sort of ceremony going on. And, for a minute you're not sure if its a black magic, alternative universe, Buddhist thing... or just a really strange Thai version of "Old Country Buffet".

Promises or not, would you drink this???
 None-the-less, the evil Dr. Voodoo Duwang (his formal title) is brewing up what appears to be a combo of Mentos, Diet Coke, and glue, and is promising that this bubbling, foamy brew will bring eternal youth. And by eternal youth, he means eternal death in the entirely dead sort of way. A mid-50's ish Thai woman hops on that brew, paying out top dollar to be young again. 

But, within two shakes of a monkey's tail, because we are in Thailand, she's dead as a cockroach on a southern Arizona highway.

Naturally,  everyone freaks out and runs. And, you know in Star Trek when you see the guy in the red shirt and you KNOW he's going to be the first to die? Yeah. The guy that's wearing the "Wrangler" t-shirt bears the mark of "dead meat". It of course doesn't help that he runs like a girlie monkey either.

Now, our lone survivor, Piak, swims across the river a total of three times to get away from the infamous "Dr. Vodoo", which should technically put Piak in his clutches, but rather follows the rule of "three lefts makes a right"... and with each step he takes, Dr. VooDoo utilizes his roadrunner-like speed, ninja like silence, and Fist Triangulator to catch up.

In a moment of exasperation, Piak confronts Dr. VooDoo, threatening to turn him in to the tribal elder. Dr. VooDoo's only response???

"If they arrest me, then no one will know that I did it!"

I... errr... uh... Ok. Wait a second. Time out for a technicality there Dr. VooDoo... that is if you have a real PHD in VooDoo. IF they arrest you, then they KNOW that you did it. Perhaps in your evil chicanery you got distracted and forgot that your line should have read:

"If I kill you, then no one will know that I did it, and I can't be arrested!"

But then that would change the whole feel of this movie and the resulting blog.

SO, Piak give his best "throw down" moves, there's a fairly good fight, and then he flees back to the village where he happens upon a conversation where the village elder is telling a group of young guys that the men of the village are too old to fight anymore. This is VERY important to note and save for a few paragraphs from now. You won't regret it. Trust us.

Piak tells everyone about what has happened. The elder steps up and in a concerned tone states that: "We need to catch him before he escapes in the Laos!". (Insert Shrug)

SIDE NOTE: If he leaves on his own, doesn't that sort of solve the problem?

Back to the film

So this group of villagers, all 4 of them, head off to capture the Infamous Dr. VooDoo (his title just keeps getting better and better). When confronted he states "I didn't kill anyone". And you  know what, I'm pretty sure he didn't. It was the bubbling bowl of Botulism that did it. A fight ensues with fists, and kicks, and swords, and the cornering of Dr. VooDoo, and the  "mortally wounding" him with swords... though it honestly looks like they are just slapping him with the blades, and then tossing his body into the river.

Uh. Wait. End of movie right? Because the bad guy didn't resurface.

Ohp... No. Here's the second set of credits. We happen upon a scene of several random villagers driving what can only be described as drag racing tractors. They turn a corner and find a man in a blue windbreaker blocking their path. After several lame attempts to get his attention and insult his dignity, he turns and lays down some serious WUPATCHA!!! And, just in case you DIDN'T recognize this evil windbreaker wearing guy... THIS is Panna Rittikrai. And yeah, he is JUST that good!

The punching, and twisting, and kicking, and hat casualties galore...


Some guys die. Some guys escape. Un-named windbreaker murderer slowly and methodically follows them back to the village. Oh man. Carnage is SOOO going to unfold!!

Oh no! There is a lovely couple paddling down the river. Are they going to find the body of Dr. VooDoo? Is he going to spring up out of the murky deep like a hungry alligator in wait? Is Mr. Murder Jacket going to take out this innocent couple???? (insert tension here)

(sliding needle on the record noise)

Uuh... No. The girl springs into song and oddly enough everyone seems to be hip to her Karaoke river groove... even that little kid in his underpants. (2:40)

And honestly, if you are entirely confused at this point... so were we.

So, the lovely couple heads back to the village, crackin' jokes the whole way. Mid-way there they run across the villagers that were attacked back on the road. These two remaining men state that they were attacked by the thief. Wait... what? Was he a thief? I don't think he stole anything, other than their pride. Or, was he a murderer? What type of perpetrator are we talking about here? Can you give a clear description to a sketch artist? Because, being clear about what is going on will help out the plot of his film a WHOLE LOT.

So, during this intense debriefing we are told that there are some Japanese students arriving to study some ancient relics... "or something". Now, within mere seconds we can all ascertain that these individuals are obviously not Japanese NOR students.

During their generalized banter, some serious banditos arrive on the scene and attempt to rob them. And, as I pointed out to MJ, I'm surprised that they didn't get attacked by monkeys earlier on as the only girl in the group is dressed like an over-ripe banana.


As the banditos attempt to make their move they discover that at least three of the students are martial arts masters. Aaaand... the butt whoopin' commences. And just when things are about to get ugly, one of the sleeping students pagers goes off and wakes up an additional fighter. And it is here that we can say that this is the only time in the history of EVER that a pager saved anyone's life... especially in a remote Thai jungle.

We never did find out why exactly one would carry a pager into the jungle... or who would be paging you on it... or even where you find a phone to return their call... but that's neither here nor there.

Having their pride bruised, the bandits are sent packing, only to happen upon the blue windbreaker of doom... and the bearer of it's namesake. Within mere seconds the banditos, who thought they were home free after that "Japanese Whipping", are beaten bloody in their tracks. And, the only reason that they thievin' hides are ever found is that one of the students needs to relieve himself, and ends up finding the bent, twisted bodies of the banditos.

You want us to come out now? Yes? Wait, no? So no then. Ok.
Back in the village, Piak (the original survivor of Dr. VooDoo's brew, and the second boatman on the Karaoke stream) is offering to give the beatdown to the windbreaker man of doom. Serious conversation. Serious, serious, serious... HEY, who are those @ssclowns in the background waving into the camera like this was a "Live on the Scene" evening news bit???

OK. Now we're launched back into the jungle where we are introduced to a very strange group of Chinese grifters looking for "HOLY METAL"!!!

\m/  \m/

So, cue the epic great American Western theme music as they forge through the jungle on their way to the village. And now that we're nearly 40 minutes into the film we find ourselves beginning to wonder where Tony Jaa is? Didn't the box say that this was his major debut and that he co-starred in the film? (scratches chin) OH, CRAP! We can't really worry about that right now as the Chinese have crossed paths with the windbreaker man. Man, you should see their faces...WWWWAAaaaiT! There's Tony Jaa! And if his shirt is any indication of what his fighting skills are going to be like... we're all in terrible trouble.

But now for a moment of seriousness:
It is in this scene that you REALLY get a sense for Panna Rittikrai's absolute athletic, choreographic, and martial arts brilliance.


So, here's the part where my husband wanders into the living room to join in on the film watching. His response? "Wow guys. This is the strangest episode of 'Saved By the Bell' that I've ever seen!" (insert wild laughter, snorting, chorteling, side grabbing, etc) This was only made worse by the fact that Tony Jaa's character is completely and utterly dead in 10 minutes. End.. of... co-starring role.

So, back in the village the students arrive, tell of the attack, and then an awkward love/flirting scene. And, we soon realize that this movie could have also aptly been named "Bill & Ted's Thailand Adventure"... Brah!

And, we are suddenly reminded that Piak and Chawalay are on a quest to find that evil blue windbreaker. They're running through the jungle, rammed in high gear. But so are the two remaining Chinese grifters. They clash, they talk, they slap backs, they decide to work together. The Chinese men head back to the village, the two young Thai men stumble upon the perp. And again, with no words spoken, Panna Rittikrai lays the hammer down, and stops a knife stab to the gut with his apparently Kevlar jacket of imperviousness! Pretty sweet.

In the end, despite their best efforts, the Murder Jacket remains undefeated.

Villager/Chinese/Japanese            Murder Jacket
                0                                        12, at least

And, this whole theme of "Let's go kill the bad guy" followed quickly with "OMG!!! RUN AWAY!" continues to another 40 minutes or so. And, at points the fighting becomes so epic that it changes the landscape, from hillside to plains at the kick of a foot to the face of an opponent. And, there are some strange interpersonal flirting scenes that just have absolutely NOTHING to do with the tea in China, which has absolutely NOTHING to do with the Chinese grifters looking for "Holy Metal". Personally, I suggested they look to Norway for an answer. (Bah-dump-dump, CHING!)

At some point here we realize that other than the main film characters, we have never seen anyone else in the village, aside from the two dummies who wandered on camera, and a chicken. A very talented chicken, yes, but still just a chicken.

So that whole thing about the villagers being too old to fight?

It's a coverup. A coverup for the fact that the village consists of four main characters, a few other minor characters who are now dead, and a couple dummies who can't remember their cue. And a single chicken. Not that the chicken couldn't stand up for itself. I mean, for all we know, that chicken could be a total bad@ss.

And now, to really save your time and ours and prevent this thing from getting entirely out of control, we're going to just jump ahead in the film. 

Feel free to make tape-winding noises in your head as we fast forward through some Jason Voorhees style serial killer music,  some cracks about not keeping your grape jelly packets in your front pocket, and more fabulous early 90's pop culture references mostly having to do with Trini (the yellow power ranger), assorted after-school specials, whatever happened to Patrick Duffy, and how they managed to make Tony Jaa look like a member of NKOTB. And then killed him. Yes, we're still stuck on that.
It's ok. You didn't really miss too much. However, were pretty sure that you've been wondering who this killer in the blue windbreaker is, and what he has to do with the village, the Chinese and Japanese visitors, and the now long forgotten Dr. VooDoo. Well suddenly, about 10 minutes from the end of the film, Dr. VooDoo strolls back on the scene all like, 

"Hey guys. Sssup? I know you thought I was dead. However, I faked my death and have just now come back to assist my evil impervious warrior of imperviousness in your ultimate destruction, because I'm a bad guy and that's what I get paid to do. Shall we now?"

By the end of the film, we have witnessed fighting, swordplay, an impervious murder jacket, the return of Dr. VooDoo, the absolute final death of Dr. VooDoo, and the destruction of the impervious warrior of imperviousness in his evil blue windbreaker/jacket of death.



Starring the chicken! That would be awesome. Do we dare to dream it?

Ok. So, what did we learn from this film? 1) Tony Jaa doesn't really do any substantial bone snapping until after 2003. 2) If you happen to find yourself getting tangled up with a guy who has a PhD in VooDoo don't run. Just make sure you kill him absolutely dead. 3) Anytime is a good time for a karaoke river party. 4) This movie makes for a SUPER great time. Rent it if you can find it.

SO, with the completion of this week's blog, we wish you well and look forward to sharing next week's blog on "Supercop". SO YA'LL COME BACK NOW!!!

- The Mavens (Kelly and MJ)

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