Chocolate (2008)
By: Devon B. on July 11, 2012  | 
Cine Asia | Region B | 1.78:1, 1080p | Thai DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | 93 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Starring: Yanin Mitananda, Hiroshi Abe, Pongpat Wachirabunjong, Ammara Siriphong
Screenplay: Chookiat Sakveerakul, Napalee
Country: Thailand
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Chocolate was Prachya Pinkaew's follow up to Warrior King (Better Known As Where's My Elephant?) I didn't take interest in Chocolate because I thought Pinkaew wasn't much of a director, and why the hell would I want to watch a movie of his that didn't have Tony Jaa in it? The answer, naturally, was because it marked another collaboration with action god Panna Rittikrai. While Jaa went off and ruined his career with the Ong Bak sequels, Pinkaew and Rittikrai teamed up to try and create a new Thai action star, Yanin Mitananda, who's no slouch when it comes to combat.

Chocolate starts with a tense meeting between Yakuza and the local Thai mafia. After the meeting, the Thai leader's partner, Zin, hooks up with one of the Yakuza. She falls for him, but she tries to send him away for his own safety, but they are caught by the Thai mafia guy who shoots himself in the foot because he can't bring himself to harm Zin. Sometimes you just gotta pop a cap in somebody, and I guess better your foot than someone else's head. I was fairly confused at this point, and thought maybe Pinkaew was tired of people mocking the simplistic plots of his previous movies, but there's got to be some ground between "appears to be written by a kid in Kinder" and "totally befuddling."

Anyway, Zin's hook up has bore fruit, and she names her daughter Zen. Zin and Zen is a fantastic set of names when you're trying to keep straight which characters are which. Zen is a "special" child, a bit disconnected from reality. She shows an interest in martial arts, and displays an uncanny ability to swiftly react to certain stimulus – ie she can catch stuff real good when it's thrown at her. She becomes a busker using this trait, but when her mum gets sick she needs to make more money for medical treatment. A friend works out that Zin is owed a lot of money by different people, and he and Zen set out to collect the debts. Unfortunately, these debtors are people from Zin's criminal past, so they're not exactly willing to pay up. Fighting ensues.

With Chocolate Pinkaew comes closer to aping the feel of his hero Luc Besson than before, in part because he's focused the film on a femme fatale. Chocolate has a better storyline than Rittikrai's own Knockout or Born to Fight (or the Ong Bak trilogy), but it's still not a smart script. The setup is a little more detailed, but once the fighting begins, it's yet again just silliness stringing together the action set pieces. I don't mind silly action movies, but given the tone Chocolate is striving for the film suffers because of its script's stupidity. The film shows a bit more restraint than Pinkaew's previous movies, but it still lacks subtlety, with over exaggerated acting and convenient plotting. The only thing that's subtle is that no one seems to notice the transgender characters. I know Thailand has the whole ladyboy thing going on, but you'd still think someone would mention that the girl is actually a dude at some point. Unless Thailand is such a tolerant society that no one even cares about that shit, in which case, good on 'em.

A lot of flaws can be forgiven in a martial arts movie if the fighting is good, and Chocolate does deliver there…eventually. It's 20 minutes in before the first fight, and I really liked this scene because Zen's disconnectedness is part of her fighting style. I thought that would be really cool, giving the fights a unique feel. However, it's another 20 minutes before the next fight, and in this scene Zen is hesitant to battle, but eventually gets inspired by movies she's seen. Because, the thing is, Zen is a bit of a mimic, so she's just naturally good at recreating moves she's seen on the tele. I don't mind the bits of the icehouse fight where she paid tribute to Bruce Lee, but I found it difficult when she started mimicking Jaa. Zen watches clips from Jaa's films earlier in the movie, but when she starts fighting for real, it is images of Jaa that inspire her to take action. Then her moves are shown against the moves she's mimicking of his, which is just too direct a comparison, because she's not in the same league as Jaa. But her sidekick is nowhere near as annoying as that Dirty Balls guy, so it's probably a fair trade all up. Chocolate does bring the choreography and mad stunts Rittikrai's known for, starting at about the halfway point. Characters still patiently wait their turn to be beaten up, but when they get their turn it's almost always impressive. As usual, there're a few wince inducing moments, and the outtakes show that some of that shit really does hurt. These aren't funny Jackie Chan outtakes where, Armour of God aside, no one's seriously hurt, and I'd already felt bad for the injured before the really serious ouchie is shown.

Chocloate isn't good enough to be the emotional movie it clearly thinks it is, but Pinkaew's film is redeemed, as ever, by Rittikrai's involvement.
This is a Thai movie, and it looks better than a lot of Thai movies I've seen, but is still a long cry from Hollywood quality. The fine detail is good, but the colour palate seemed oversaturated at times, and there's noise in some darker scenes. I'd blame the source rather than the transfer.
There is a Thai DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix or a lossy 2.0 Thai mix to pick from. Now that's a tough choice! I didn't even bother comparing the 2.0 since it seemed so irrelevant. On the DTS track the score sounds good, bullets use the surrounds well, and there's a satisfying thump whenever things get hit. The subtitle track annoyingly "translates" lines that are already in English, but thankfully there're only a few of those.
Extra Features
There're a series of featurettes that interview the director, stars and the choreographer, and while the breaking up of the featurettes means they can be a bit more focused on a particular element of the film, I would've preferred one longer making of with chapter selection. All up they run about 45 minutes, and info repeats because each one is its own little feature. The main thing to watch these for is the rehearsal footage and clips of Jaa promoting his films. Also included are six deleted scenes which were mostly character related nonsense, and the film's trailer and some TV spots. The outtakes and highlights from five fights feature was okay for the highlights, but the outtakes are more footage of people getting hurt. I get that this is a reality of this sort of film, but quit rubbing my nose in it! The training workshop footage is very rough, but it's fantastic and well worth a look to get a better look at the prowess of the people involved in the fights.

There's also an Easter egg. Press right on "Special Features" on the main menu to highlight "Chocolate" up the top. Press enter to see a power moves demo (this is dancing power moves, not someone smashing through six sheets of ice to win a bet or anything).

Most of the extras are not 16x9 enhanced.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
I'd like to say I have faith that Rittikrai will get to make a movie with a decent script that enhances his action sequences, but I'm starting to doubt it will happen. I can only imagine how awesome it would be if he got to make a movie with a script as good as say, Die Hard. Given he's already taken out the story and ramped the action to the extreme with Knockout, it's time for a quality plot to go along with the punches. Chocolate is well worth a look, but I'm ready for something more.

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