Tom Yum Goong

Tom Yum Goong

Thai film Tom Yum Goong is the follow up to Ong Bak from hot new martial arts star Tony Jaa and director Prachya Pinkaew. Ong Bak was hailed as the best martial arts action film for quite some time and Tony Jaa was pronounced as the successor to Jackie Chan with his amazing fight sequences and acrobatic feats. But was Ong Bak just a fluke? Can the same team pull it off again and produce another film to slap the currently rather lacklustre Hong Kong film industry in the face and say "look you retarded chipmunks; this is how it should be done".

The Film

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Well, having watched this film, Arthur can say without any doubt that film-makers in Hong Kong have pretty much just received the face-slapping of their lives and been branded the most retarded of all the chipmunks in the far east. The action in this film (which, if you're being honest with yourself is the only reason you'd really want to watch it) continues in the vein started by Ong Bak and then takes it to all new heights with

jaw-dropping choreography and bone-crunching brutality never before seen on film (with the possible exception of underground bare knuckle boxing/fight to the death contests put on by Eastern European people smugglers wanting to make some easy money by getting asylum seekers to kill each other on video).

The story follows Kham, who has come to Sydney Australia to look for several elephants stolen by poachers from his village back in Thailand.

Hmmmm... wait a minute. Arthur thinks this all sounds very familiar...Wasn't the plot to Ong Bak about someone who had gone to the big city to look for a sacred statue stolen from his village by unscrupulous antique dealers?

OK, so the plot to Tom Yum Goong is not exactly original. In fact the the film definitely has a feeling of deja-vu as it stars some of the same cast as well in the same sorts of roles. And some action sequences seem to be copied from Ong Bak, in particular a boat chase sequence feels a lot like the tuk-tuk chase scene in Ong Bak. There is a bit less emphasis here on the acrobatic stunts (there is no equivalent to the the Ong Bak chase sequence where Tony Jaa jumps through barbed wire hoops, under cars, between sheets of plate glass etc.) but there are plenty of set pieces spread throughout the film and during fight sequences.

And it's these fight sequences where Tom Yum Goong really excels. They are loads of them and each has a different feel. Whether it's the one on one fight in a burning temple with some guy who is clearly meant to be Eddie from Tekken or an incredible 4 minute sequence filmed in a single take where Tony Jaa fights his way up a giant spiral staircase taking on anyone and everyone who gets in his way, these fights never fail to impress. They are brutal, stunt filled, innovative and above all, amazing to watch. Arthur simply cannot imagine how they are going to top this film. For all out action, it simply does not get any better than this.

If the film has a downside it is that it comes after Ong Bak and has to compete with the memory of it. Ong Bak was unlike anything anyone had ever seen. Tom Yum Goong is more of the same but with bells on and suffers slightly from this; for example it is missing a good, cheesy B-Movie villain (Ong Bak had the wheelchair bound old guy with the electronic voice box). But whilst you lose out on the background details, the slack is taken up with more action and fight scenes, which for a film like this whose target audience aren't looking for deep, insightful cinema with Oscar calibre performances, is no bad thing.

Arthur reckons you won't see a better action film this year. And it's only February!