Monday, January 31, 2011

Red Eagle (2010)

Last year it was forty years since Mitr Chaibancha fell to his death from a helicopter during the production of Golden Eagle, the movie that became the last sequel in his franchise about Thailands most popular crime fighting drunk. What more fitting is to unleash a new Red Eagle-movie to the unprotected audience of Thailand and the rest of the world? An audience with little or none relationship to either Chaibancha or Red Eagle, which is of course the best way to do it. Because Wisit Sasanatieng’s Red Eagle is one insane, crazy, wacky rollercoaster (I once promised to never use that word in a review) of a movie, and I loved every friggin’ minute of it, even if it was far from perfect.

The year is 2013. Liberal party leader Direk Damrongprapa (Pornwut Sarasin) and fiancée Vasana Tienpradap (Yarinda Bunnag) is protesting and leading a demonstration and campaign against corruption among politicians and other leaders. They’re fighting against a nuclear reactor that’s gonna be built in Bangkok, but three years later and Direk has himself become a corrupt prime minister and an enemy of his former fiancée. During these years the corruption has gotten worse and the crime rate is thru the roof – then suddenly Red Eagle arrives, a masked crime fight that kills, Kills and KILLS! He’s a former task-force member, hurt both inside and outside during a jungle mission and is now addicted to morphine and revenge. A secret organisation, Matulee – maybe connected to some certain corrupt politicians – is sending out their best killer, Black Devil, to kill Red Eagle and take control over the city… but he’s not that easy to kill, that old eagle…

Red Eagle is not even close to being anything connected to the word “realistic”. This is very over-the-top, almost science fiction when it comes to absurdities. The director, Wisit Sasanatieng, is no stranger to this. If you’ve seen Tears of the Black Tiger you know what to expect and that he just does not care about logic or some kind of sense in what’s happening. In one scene a character defends himself against five bad guys with automatic guns, only protecting himself with a frying pan! He also takes out one character with throwing fried food on him from ten meters away! And this isn’t even Red Eagle himself, but one of the cops chasing him! Red Eagle prefers cutting people to pieces with his über-advanced sword, shooting a lot of people in the face and fight on the top of falling elevators!

The action is more or less non-stop. But make no mistake, this is not even close to the style that Panna Rittikrai, Prachya Pinkaew and Tony Jaa created. Red Eagle is normal Hollywood-style fighting and editing, lots of wires and digital effects. The whole movie resembles a comic book, with strong colours (not even close to Wisit’s earlier movies though), weird angles, crazy action set-pieces and personalities that’s bigger than life.

It’s a unique movie, even if we make the Hollywood-comparison, and it’s a lot more gorier, bloodier and violent than the normal superhero-movie from Hollywoodland. Heads and arms fly, blood spurts from every part of the body, a face is flattened by a frying pan, squibs (both real and CG), cuts and bruises. Not for children, which I’m sure we all are grateful for. Wisit Sasanatieng knows that Red Eagles is over-the-top, and he knows that it’s an absurdly commercial movie for the biggest audience possible. That’s why he takes the time to poke some fun at product placements (he really takes a lot of time to show Red Eagle buy and drink some kinda energy drink), the Thai censorship (for example, sometimes texts can show up on the screen with warnings – for real, and during a violent scene involving a smoking man the text claims that smoking can cause death…) etc.

Red Eagle is an intelligent, extremely violent and very silly action movie. Ananda Everingham is excellent in the lead, and has a lot of interesting characters around him. He clearly fills Mitr Chaibancha’s shoes without a problem. I’ve heard it became a flop in its homeland, and it’s a pity because the ending is a real cliffhanger and I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to see a sequel to it.

No comments: