Chocolate (2008), or Autism Vs. Tourettes?!?

12 11 2009

I know that I was supposed to do The Shawshank Redemption tonight, but, in a stunning turn of events, I did not want to watch that movie. Also, I had a prior engagement to watch today’s movie that superseded my Shank-fest, so I’m afraid that will have to wait for tomorrow. It’s been quite a few weeks since me and the lovely Bren have been able to do anything together, you see, and finding out that she was off, we decided to use that opportunity to catch up on all the things that we’ve been holding off on. And one of those big things we’ve held off on is this film, loaned to us by Josh and Liz, two fine, movie-watching folk. It’s just been inconvenient for us to sit down together, but at long last we got to see this (after ditching The Shawshank Whateverthefuck), and I gotta say it was a little better than we thought it would be. Although, after reading that it was a Thai film about an Autistic girl beating up mobsters, I really didn’t have high hopes for it…

That’s right; autistic girl beating up mobsters. If you can believe that Forrest Gump is a ping-pong champ, why not this? Apparently, a forbidden love between a Thai mobster’s moll and a Japanese Yakuza sparks a lifelong rivalry. The Thai mobster lets the girl and the Yakuza go, not wanting to spark a war, but letting them know that as long as she would be with him, trouble would follow. And so they left, but she left the Yakuza shortly afterward so that their child would not ever feel the wrath of the Thai mob. So she raised their love child in private, but it was much harder to handle than anticipated. You see, the child is diagnosed with Autism at an early age. It means that the mother will have to work much harder for her child to live a normal life. But she manages to do it, and for many years, the woman and her child live happily in secrecy, away from the danger of her old life. But as the years grow on, it soon becomes time for the girl to care for the mother; she has a terrible sickness, and it will cost a lot of money to take care of it. So, with the guidance of her pudgy friend Moom, they will use her amazing abilities to get the money for the mother’s operation. And what is her amazing ability? You guessed it; mimicking martial arts from movies and using the skills to beat up old business owners who owed her mom money!!! And none of these guys are willing to cough up the dough for some chubby Thai kid and an Autistic girl, so she’s going to have to beat it out of them!!! Will she make it to her mother with all the money in time? Will the Thai mobster hear about all his and get his revenge? Will the mom live to see any of this occur?

This is a very nutty martial arts film with a lot of character. Normally when I think of Thai films, I think low budget with bad scripts. I just haven’t come across a thoughtful and enticing production. This is a step in the right direction though. Chocolate is a movie with heart, a considerable amount of it, even though most of it is consumed by repetitive martial arts. It’s not using mental handicaps like an exploitation; they seem genuine enough with their care for these special members of our society. These people are treated with a lot of respect, and I appreciated that. The only time when I felt a little uncomfortable was with a fight in which a martial artist with Tourettes Syndrome fought our Autistic heroine. It was like a battle of the mental incongruities! I laughed in nervous wonder, but it might be construed as a little insensitive by some.

The martial arts are pretty amazing, if not a perpetual grind. It stands that for every kung-fu hero in a film, there are probably about 70 fodder bad guys and 3 really good guys for him or her to fight. Here, they give our hero, named Zen by the way, about 120 fodder baddies and only one real opponent to fight, who isn’t even named (Bren and I called him “Checkers” because of his bandana). It’s ridiculous how fast Zen plows through these dudes, using her memories of Thai hero Tony Jaa to whip some ass. She’s amazing, and the choreography really is a marvel, but I feel like things are infinitely repetitive to stretch out run time. The baddies keep on coming, and her skill is such that I’m not at all worried about her, so it’s really a Mobius strip of Thailand violence that could’ve been cut down a bit.

The acting is fair for an action movie. Sometimes it’s odd that they actually lapse into American every now and then. Everything’s Thai and then you hear “Well, well…” and you jerk back in confusion. It’s odd, and while I suppose they wanted to add a feeling of mystique to the characters, I really think they could’ve used a diction coach. The actors that stand out here are the mother and the daughter; Yanin Vismistanada plays Zen, the Autistic child, and Hiroshi Abe plays her mother, Zin. These two are perfect for each other, and I think they’re extremely complimentary of one another. The mother is the dramatic pillar that the whole movie is tied to, and the daughter is a bad-ass Autistic chick! You really have to give it up for Vismistanada; she is an amazing martial artist, and she took a lot of punishment from her art by doing this film if you stick around for the credits. Chocolate is a testament to her amazing skills, and I really enjoyed her work here.

So a martial arts flick with heart; not a bad idea. With enough Jackie Chan zaniness to keep things for the most part interesting, and a quick, an easy Kill Bill rip-off story that has just enough fuel to crash at the finish line, and Autism awareness messages throughout, Chocolate isn’t too bad. Of course, it’s not terribly good either, but I wouldn’t be loathe to watch it again. It’s fun and breezy, two things that are very complimentary to the martial arts genre. It keeps you entertained for the most part, at least until the end when it becomes Foot Soldier Parade Day in Thailand. I give Chocolate 6 1/2 decimated baddies out of 10!

Tomorrow I promise I’ll do The Shaw-stank Regurgitation or whatever the hell it’s called. And I happily await your hate mail for me bad-mouthing it prematurely!