When Manit (John Foo) was ten years old, invaders came into his home one night and killed his parents. They found him hiding in the closet, and when he pulled the mask off of his captor and saw his face, the man shot him in the head. He survived the shooting, but the bullet had lodged itself behind his frontal lobe and it was impossible to remove it without damaging the rest of the brain. They expected him to die within 48 hours and decided to just let nature take its course. The only reason the bullet didn’t blow his brains out was because the bullet itself misfired. A kind nurse too care of him, even when things looked hopeless.
Later, one of the people involved in the killings and who was a part of a gang of corrupt cops out to kill everyone in the anti-corruption squad in the police department, comes into the room and hands the doctor a paper saying that his parents didn’t want him kept alive on life support and they have to unplug him. The nurse who’s been caring for him protests, because she believes he can recover, and after the doctor takes him off of life support, he does die for a moment, but then his heart starts beating again and he survives. To prevent anything like that from happening again, the kind nurse sneaks him out of the hospital in the middle of the night and takes him to a man named Adjan in her village, because Adjan knows the secrets of the plants, and is the boy’s best chance of recovering. Eventually, he does recover, but the part of his brain that feels emotion has been damaged. Now he feels nothing. No love, no hate, no anger, no compassion…nothing.
As he grows, Adjan teaches him Muay Thai boxing, which he excels at. There comes a time years later however, after Manit has grown into a man, that the nurse who saved his life ends up in the hospital herself. He had grown to consider her to be his mother, as that was how she had always treated him. But now that she was about to die, she handed over all of the research she had done into what happened to his real parents, so he could use it to avenge them and bring their killers to justice. When a nurse calls the crooked cops however and tells them that she’s seen him there, the cops do everything they can to make sure he never discovers the truth, and that means, they want him dead. Unfortunately for them, Manit isn’t planning on dying so easily.
I’m just going to get to the point here rather than pussyfooting around it. This was not a great movie. In fact, story-wise, it’s not even a good movie. I’ll get into all the reasons why in a minute. What saves the film ultimately are all the great fighting sequences.
So what was wrong with the story? Well first off, they say in the film that the bullet damaged his brain and caused a condition called ataraxia. This is an incorrect definition of the condition, as the true definition is "calmness untroubled by mental or emotional disquiet ". Basically, it’s the freedom from mental disturbance. The condition he actually has, as described in the film, is a condition called Apatheia, which is the absence of disordered passions, which in and of itself can create a state of ataraxia, but that’s not what the root of his condition was.
Now, why am I picking on that one particular point? Because it comes down to an issue with the quality of the writing. If you’re going to write a character and give them a condition, make sure what you’re giving them is what you think it is. It takes me back to The Princess Bride.
"You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
Then there’s the English. For some reason, this ten year old kid, who’s father worked for the police in Thailand, speaks mostly English, and does it with an Irish/English accent, because that’s where John Foo is from. He is of Irish/Chinese heritage, and his family mostly lived in the northwest of London while he was growing up. In the film, people ask him about the English and the accent at different times, and his answer is always that if he told them, they’d never believe him. That’s just lazy writing. They could have come up with something plausible to explain it rather than just letting it hang there in obscurity like that.
Then he meets up with this French reporter who is there to interview some Thai gang members. He saves her and her cameraman when they’re getting the crap kicked out of them, and then afterward while they’re walking along, she’s totally identifying with the gang members and feeling sorry for them. Yeah, she was one of those.
Now here’s another problem we run into. Her accent is thick as hell, and whenever they speak English in this film, regardless of the accent going on and who’s speaking it, the subtitles drop out. It only has subtitles during the Thai language parts. This was a huge issue, because her accent was thick and hard to understand, and she wasn’t the only one. Plus, it’s like hitting a mental speedbump when you’re cruising along reading subtitles and then suddely they’re gone and you’re hearing English. Then you have to mentally switch gears as quickly as possible to try to sort through the accents and get what they’re saying.
There were other elements of the story that really just didn’t work, like the fact that once Manit was trained and out on his own, we never see Adjan again. This guy raised, trained him and was like a father to him, and then suddenly he was gone and never mentioned again. Then there’s the whole drug smuggling girl gang thing run by this rich lady who are working with the corrupt cops. I could go on and on, but you get the point.
As for the action, it’s great. I have no complaints about it at all, and in fact, it’s the action parts that saved the movie and made it watchable. John Foo is an amazing martial artist, which isn’t surprising considering he’s worked with Jackie Chan and many of the other top performers in Asian action. I don’t actually think I’ve seen any of his other films. His acting could use some work, but on the action side, he’s just awesome to watch. There are literally scenes in this film where he’s fighting in close quarters that will make you say, "Wow!".
When it comes down to a final conclusion, should you see this film? I would say yes, definitely see it for the action, but don’t go into it expecting too much from the story, or you’ll be disappointed. You’ll enjoy it more if you go into it with the mental attitude of taking it for what it is, which is a great action film with a poorly written, completely implausible story. I can recommend it, but only marginally.
If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out it’s page on the Well Go USA website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get the blu-ray or DVD release from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.