A version of this review appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
With the summer blockbuster season in full swing, it’s somehow comforting to remember that the Hollywood studios don’t have the market cornered on cringe-worthy action flicks with atrocious acting, preposterous dialogue and shoddy storytelling.
“Bangkok Revenge” provides the ultimate reminder that bad movies are universal. The bargain-basement Thai-French martial arts brawler boasts a few undeniably cool fight sequences, but it fails to come up with any real surprises, unless you count how stunningly silly and derivative it manages to get.
The story begins in 1990 in Bangkok, where masked men break into a family home and gun down the sleeping husband and wife in their bed. Their 10-year-old son, Manit (Ratthawish Saksirikoon), witnesses the murder and gets drawn on, too, but a misfire keeps the headshot from becoming fatal.
At the hospital, kindly nurse Chanticha (Aphiradi Phawaphutanon) realizes that the baddies are still targeting the comatose child and spirits him away.
Luckily, she happens to know a Muay Thai boxing master (Kowitch Wathana) who understands “the secret of plants,” and she presses him into caring for the child. Master Adjan figures out that the bullet lodged in the boy’s skull has damaged his brain, preventing Manit from feeling any emotion.
That doesn’t stop the less-than-scrupulous master from relentlessly training the youngster in the martial arts until the grown-up Manit (Jon Foo) can break through any number of bamboo poles with a single punch, kick or elbow thrust. When the inexplicably aged Chanticha reveals on her deathbed that Manit’s father was a good cop killed by bad cops in cahoots with a trampy heroin-trafficking girl gang, the avenger is already the buff killing machine he needs to be to take them all down. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop Manit, who inexplicably speaks British-accented English, from teaming up with Clara (Caroline Ducey), an irritating French journalist, and Simon (Michael Cohen), an alcoholic boxer who turns out to be a French ex-cop.
With his martial arts and circus background, Foo boasts some impressive skills and deserves a better showcase. First-time writer-director Jean-Marc Mineo clearly comprehends that Foo’s talents are his movie’s lone asset, and he pits Manit against countless opponents in an array of fighting scenarios: inside a car, subway train, elevator and, of course, the girl gang’s sleazy lair.
“Bangkok Revenge” clocks in at less than 85 minutes, but that’s still too long for such a bad movie.