Yanin Vismistananda shines in her second role, Rashane Limtrakul’s so-so action film Raging Phoenix.
“It’s called Meyraiyuth, why do you want to learn?”
“It looks cool, I just want to learn. I that a problem?”
Sometimes a movie looks so bad that the only reason you buy it is because it’s 50p at a second-hand store and looks like it might be fun to rip on. Raging Phoenix, I’m almost disappointed to say, is not that. Yanin Vismistananda plays Deu (or Neu as is written at the back of my DVD for some reason), a loner who keeps getting ditched and abandoned, even by her own mother. One day, she gets abducted and taken to an abandoned amusement park. She tries to escape, and is saved by martial artist Sanim (Kazu Patrick Tang), master of a drunken kung fu-Muay Thai-breakdancing style of fighting called Meyraiyuth.
Backed up by his friends Pig Shit and Dog Shit (Nui Saendaeng and Sompong Lertwimonkaisom) the trio live on the beach, apparently, and save women from being kidnapped. Deu wants to join them, and eventually convinces Sanim and his friends to train her. She learns that Sanim has lost his fiancée to the gang, and that they have been abducting women seemingly for a particular pheromone that certain women apparently excrete, and that she is one of them. Yeah, the whole thing is pretty stupid. But really the story is not the reason you buy into this film.
While there’s no reason not to believe that this film is set in regular, everyday Thailand, for some reason the movie presents itself as if it was part of a larger setting, one within a post apocalyptic future. While we get glimpses of busy cities and marketplaces – and one scene right at the beginning where Deu plays the drums in a club, the majority of the film takes place is weird, abandoned locations like the amusement park, a ruined structure in the middle of a constantly empty beach, and whatever Temple of Doom location they used for the final showdown. There are precisely 0 extras in the majority of the scenes which leaves you with the feeling that the entire world has ended. None of that really affects the plot in any meaningful manner, but it does emphasise a sense of detachment from the audience and this makes it even harder to connect with the characters.
Oh well, that’s not why we’re here. We want to see people get kicked in the neck, and then breakdance. The action is great here. As much as I love the calculated, dance-like structure of Hong Kong kung fu films, the fights in Raging Phoenix feel raw, especially near the end when Deu has to fight with the leader of the Jaguar gang, London. Yeah, it’s definitely choreographed, sure (the hip hop moves, for sure) but it’s all been made to look more like a scrap, so it’s more effective. It feels like a fight, and each punch is more effective for it. Vismistananda once again shines, as do her co-stars, and it really helps that they each play their roles sympathetically despite that detachment I mentioned earlier.
In short, there isn’t a tonne to say about this film. Like with Chocolate, this movie was better than I had anticipated, and a lot better than the DVD box art suggests it might be. There are plenty of other films like this, though, and it’s hard to find something that make Raging Phoenix really stand out. The action is great, and some of the scenery is good to look at, but other that, this movie is really just a bit on the basic side.
Verdict: Boasting good fight scene and likeable characters, Raging Phoenix has more good moments than bad, but is ultimately nothing special.
Overall entertainment: 6/10
Breakdancing: 6/10. Stick to fighting.
Character moments: Surprisingly many
Alcohols: Hundreds of types!
Raging Phoenix (2008)
Also known as: จีจ้า ดื้อ สวย ดุ (Jeeja Due Suai Du)
Director: Rashane Limtrakul
Writer: Sompope Vejchapipat
Yanin Vismistananda – Deu
Kazu Patrick Tang – Sanim
Nui Saendaeng – Kee Moo (Pig Shit)
Sompong Lertwimonkaisom – Kee Ma (Dog Shit)
Boonprasayrit Salangam – Kee Kwai (Bull Shit)
Jindasing Roongtawan – London