Action Double Feature: Exiled & Dynamite Warrior Review

Exiled

Starring: Anthony Wong, Nick Cheung, Francis Ng, Simon Yam, Roy Cheung, Lam Suet

A clear and distinctive nod to his own back-catalogue, prolific honk-Kong helmer Johnny To concocts a slyly surreal meditation on honor and loyalty. Cooking up what is, for all intents and purposes, a Spaghetti Western, set in a non-descript locale that looks far less like rural China than some South-of-the-border Mexican berg. Mining the macabre humor of the genre, in particular the abrupt tonal shifts of Sergio Leone, for all they're worth, To engages us with a simple set up that sees a gang of criminals reuniting under intentionally confrontational circumstances. Descending on the home Wo (Nick Cheung), a onetime hitman now living the quiet life with his wife and baby, are two pairs of assassins - one with orders to kill him and the other intent on saving his life. After a furious flurry of bullets, and a resulting stand-off that is the very staple of the genre, they all elect to put away their guns and share a meal together.

All seems peaceable, but with Anthony Wood's tired hood, Blaze, delivering a quietly resigned warning to Wo that he has to kill him sooner or later a slow suffocating sense of dread hangs heavy in the air. Aping the great westerns of old, To is accutely aware that, at it's heart, the great horse opera is simply about men out of their time, and amidst the quiet, mournful reminiscence of the dinner table there is a strong sense that these guys are feeling the piss and vinegar departing all too rapidly, destined to become fossils in their own lifetime. Black humor and the slow, crushing sense of inevitability are the order of the day, and the one last for-the-honor-of-the-cause hurrah would make Peckinpah proud - a man who like no other influenced a generation of filmmakers that a gun and an iron-willed resolve was all a man needed to ultimately carry the day.

Dynamite Warrior

Starring: Dan Chupong, Panna Rittikrai, Phutiphong Swirat, Somdet Kaewleu

From producer Prachya Pinkaew, helmer of the Muay-Thai breakout smash Ong-Bak, comes this highly-stylized, low-rent vengeance saga that unashamedly heaps absurdity atop of nonsense, liberally sprinkling both with a generous you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me disregard for the laws of both physics and narrative cohesion. No mind, though, as you'll scarcely be able to catch your breath long enough to care from the moment nomadic warrior Zone Bang Fai (journeyman Dan Chupong) enters the fray, cavorting about like a demonic energizer bunny. A bizarre caricature of Robin Hood, Billy the Kid, and Inigo Montoya, Zone robs from cattle thieves and gives the herds to the poor, all the while searching for a man with a distinctive, tattoo who murdered his parents. Oh, and if anyone can point him in the direction of the menstrual blood of a virgin, that would be helpful, too.

Liberally splicing together sorcery (the bad guy has a wizard), ancient martial arts, and homemade steampunk artillery - from which Zone quite literally launches himself into battle - Dynamite Warrior proudly displays a level of overall excess that ably papers over the gaping cracks of sheer implausibility that riddle it's every frame. Chupong is no Tony Jaa, but carries the movie with an unbridled enthusiasm, ably balanced by a tongue-in-cheek turn from Thai C-list legend Panna Rittikrai as the dastardly black wizard, and a scenery chewing exercise in weasel pomposity from Puttipong Swirat as the decidedly evil tractor baron. An overall emphasis on good humor just about does enough to dispel the pungent aroma of unoriginality whenever the action isn't in full swing - which, to be fair, isn't often - and while Zone doesn't at any point actually declare "My name is Zone Bang Fai, you killed my father, prepare to die!" there can be no doubts as to Dynamite Warrior's overriding sensibility.

DVD Bonus Features

None are included.

"Action Double Feature: Exiled & Dynamite Warrior" is on sale May 4, 2010 and is rated R. Action. Directed by Charlerm Wongpim, Johnnie To. Written by Kan Yuen Szeto and Tin-Shing Yip (Exiled), Charlerm Wongpim (Dynamite Warrior). Starring Simon Yam, Anthony Wong, Francis Ng, Nick Cheung, Roy Cheung, Lam Suet, Panna Rittikrai, Dan Chupong, Somdet Kaewleu, Phutiphong Swirat.

May
11
2010
Neil Pedley • Associate Editor

Neil is a film school graduate from England now living in New York. In addition to JustPressPlay, Neil writes about for Uinterview.com as well as being a columist and weekly podcast host at IFC.com. His free time is spent acting out scenes from Predator in the woods behind his house, playing all the different parts himself.

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