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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Chocolate (review)

Alas that the most intriguing thing about this martial-arts kickfest is its wave-of-the-future release schedule. It opens in limited release in U.S. theaters on Friday, February 6 — it will play at New York City’s hip arthouse Landmark Sunshine at midnight shows only, for one — then arrives on DVD and HDNet Ultra VOD just days later, on Tuesday, February 10. (It’s already available on DVD in the U.K.) We’re going to see a lot more of this kind of thing, I have no doubt — I only hope it’s for better films. I quite liked Thai director Prachya Pinkaew’s Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior, which appeared to herald a new era in martial-arts flicks, but this followup is nothing but mindless bone-crunching pretending to hang on the slimmest frame of a story. Zen is an autistic teenager, a “special child” whose parents hail from rival gangs of Thai and Japanese gangsters — and when Mom suddenly falls ill and needs expensive hospital treatment, it falls to Zen to round up the cash needed to pay for it by beating the living holy crap out of everyone who owes her money. See, simple and removed from reality as she is, Zen has somehow absorbed all the martial-arts training she needs from watching actual fighters on TV and at the gym next door, so she is fully prepared to kick ass, with some assists from the extra-meaty-sounding FX that accompany her beatdowns. Zen is not a character at all, just a fighting machine, and indeed star “Jija” Yanin Vismistananda comes with the high recommendation that she trained for five years for this part… for the fighting part, that is. Pinkaew sets her loose in as many unusual locations as he can find because, hey, in a meat-packing plant, you can wield sides of beef as weapons and hang bad guys on meat hooks! Uncritical devotees of martial-arts flicks who don’t require even the barest of stories will probably get some visceral, ahem, kicks out of this, but everyone else can avoid. (The making-of featurette promised for the DVD was not made available for review.)

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watch at home

MPAA: rated R for violence throughout, and brief sexuality/nudity

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb | trailer
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