Demon Warriors Review

Usually Asian cinema just blows the socks off anything America’s Hollywood can put out in terms of high-octane action. You might be tempted to say ‘Sometimes? More like always.’ But with Demon Warriors I present to you the exception to the rule. The supernatural knock ‘em down and shoot ‘em up action scene medley will wow you a few times with some pretty slick stunts, but what’s tying it all together? Even the best John Woo films have a plot to loosely connect the fun instances of well-choreographed violence. Demon Warriors seems to have forgotten about that all-important adhesive instead opting for a loose premise that granted about seven characters really nifty abilities and then just went all out showing off the fancy foot work.

Demon Warriors runs way too thin.

Not to invoke a line that geeks never want to hear again, but Demon Warriors seems to subscribe to the old adage that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Only, the responsibility isn’t a socially contractual obligation, it’s a sentence to suffer a horribly painful penance in exchange for their gift. The basis of the film’s supernatural hoopla is better understood through the film’s original Thai title of Opapatika which translates to “birth from nothing”. A few lucky souls in the world have the ability to end their current lives and be instantly reborn as soulless clones of themselves with an incredible ability – but all at a cost. For the main character, a detective, the gain is a sixth sense of telepathy at the cost of his other five senses the more he uses the new one. Another character can deliver one-hit kills to any man alive but in exchange has an odd twist on the Dorian Gray theme in that for every wound he inflicts on an enemy it shows up on his own body (thus his left eye is a milky white after having stabbed a man in the ocular cavity). Each of these characters has a unique ability and consequently there are some really phenomenal fight sequences – but that’s about were the plot for the film ceases.

Imagine if the Bride of Kill Bill had a special ability and so the fights she goes through working her way up Bill’s chain of command had a little extra flair (beyond the visual style Tarantino already brought to the table). That’s what you’re getting from Demon Warriors. However, where Kill Bill spent plenty of time developing the Bride in flashbacks, Demon Warriors is little more than one large battle showcase after another with a scene or two in between where the protagonist loses another one of his five senses. The final battle’s setting is wholly predictable and not nearly the payoff that the 90 minutes it takes to get there should deliver. Kickass fight scenes are a perk, but unless you’ve got something new to totally blow our minds, you still need even a flimsy plot. Not just a throwaway staging for 6 fight scenes.

The film’s original language is Thai meaning you’ll either be learning the language or you’ll indulge in the subtitled goodness of the foreign cinema. Should you tempt the karmic forces by using the dubbed audio track you deserve exactly what you get: some of the worst voice acting known to man that just distracts more than it helps. Avoid the dub track like the plague, even if they did do a remarkable job making the translation sync up with the mouths.

But come on, even with the subtitles, you have to know that you’re missing a lot in translation. If “Demon Warriors” was the closest title they settled on to Opapatika, how much of the film’s dialogue translation are you going to take at face value?

If all you need is decent action sequences, then try it out. But if you want more than just empty film calories, hold out – you can do better.

DVD Bonus Features

“The Making of Demon Warriors” stands alone as the film’s sole extra feature, and it’s about all you could expect from a martial arts film: some bits on the stunt choreography, what the director was going for, etc. It’s not essential, but if you enjoy the film, go for it.

"Demon Warriors" is on sale August 4, 2009 and is rated R. Action, Fantasy, Foreign. Directed by Thanakorn Pongsuwan. Written by Yutnathorn Kaewthong, Thanakorn Pongsuwan. Starring Somchai Kemglad, Shahkrit Yamnarm, Leo Putt, Athip Nana, Ray MacDonald, Kemasporn Sirisukha.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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