Chocolate | aka Fury (2008) Review

"Chocolate" Japanese DVD Cover

"Chocolate" Japanese DVD Cover

AKA: Zen, Warrior Within
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Writer: Chookiat Sakveerakul, Nepali
Cast: Yanin Vismitananda, Hiroshi Abe, Pongpat Wachirabunjong, Taphon Phopwandee, Ammara Siripong, Dechawut Chuntakaro, Hirokazu “Hero” Sano
Running Time: 92/100 min.

By HKFanatic

I thoroughly enjoyed the Thai action movie Chocolate when it first came out in 2008, but revisiting it a few weeks ago on blu-ray – with the sound cranked – I think I loved it even more. This is a Thai action movie I feel will stand the test of time for fans of females who kick butt. Star Jeeja Yanin literally came out of nowhere and debuted with a film that has fight scenes and stunts that nearly rival Jackie Chan in his heyday.

Reportedly director Prachya Pinkaew (Ong Bak) saw Jeeja Yanin performing Taekwondo and was impressed enough to cast her in her own movie. This was a gamble that paid off remarkably. Jeeja engaged in rigorous Muay Thai and stunt training before cameras started rolling on Chocolate. Whether you love or hate Pinkaew’s style of filmmaking, all you need to do is watch the outtakes to know that Yanin is willing to bleed for her art.

The story has the potential to be offensive – I’ve heard it half-seriously labeled “special needs’ploitation” since Yanin’s character has autism. Yanin plays the result of a star-crossed romance between a Thai female gangster and a member of the Yakuza. Her parents split when she is a baby in order to prevent an all-out gang war and the mom ends up raising Yanin on her own. Yanin is indeed a special child, one who lacks social skills but has an uncanny sense of hearing and the ability to mimic whatever she sees performed in front of her – including martial arts moves. She studies the films of Tony Jaa and Bruce Lee, as well as the fighters in the gym that just so happens to be outside her window. In a few years’ time she becomes a prime ass-kicker.

Yanin ends up needing to raise money for her mother’s medical bills. Along with her childhood friend, she goes around to collect the money that various corrupt businesses owe her mom from her days in the Thai mafia. What follows are several set-pieces where shady managers order their employees to beat up Yanin and she lays waste to them in spectacular fashion. After a bit of a slow start, this movie is almost non-stop martial arts action.

What I love about the fights is that Yanin doesn’t just be a the crap out of everybody; the filmmakers went out of their way to feature the kind of obstacle-maneuvering stuff that Jackie Chan would do in his heyday. Yanin slides under glass tables, slips through spaces that the bad guys can’t fit in, swings through guard rails, etc. She’s really a marvel to watch.

The ending provides what might be a homage to the House of Blue Leaves sequence from Kill Bill: Volume 1, with Yanin taking on about 80 guys in black suits in a Japanese restaurant. She’s also finally provided with a fellow martial arts master to truly test her mettle. To say that the finale brings the house down would be an understatement; it features a death-defying sequence high above the ground that put at least one Thai stuntman in a neckbrace.

If you don’t enjoy the bone-breaking simplicity of most Thai action movies like Ong Bak, then Chocolate probably isn’t going to change your mind. But for people who love this kind of stuff or get a drug-like high from it (heh), then Chocolate is the ultimate fix. JeeJa Yanin is cute as a button and kicks ass like nobody’s business. Her character is a likable protagonist and you actually care about her quest to help her mom, which does strengthen the movie.

I’m certain JeeJa Yanin has an excellent career ahead of her, but if debut film goes down as her finest moment I might not be surprised. Chocolate features the kind of electrifying action sequences that ensure it will be watched and re-watched by martial arts fans for years to come.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 10/10

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5 Responses to Chocolate | aka Fury (2008) Review

  1. Paul Bramhall says:

    I’m a big fan of this movie as well. Love the way the fights escalate as the movie progresses, culminating in the fantastic finale in and around the building. Regarding Yanin having an excellent career ahead of her…with 7 years already passed since the release of ‘Chocolate’, and the fact she’s yet to make another good movie since, even up until a few weeks ago I’d have said her action career was a write off. However with the news that she’s going to be under the direction of Michael Jai White in ‘Never Back Down 3’, hopefully she can bring back some of that ass kicking magic from her debut.

    You mention Yanin was talent spotted by Pinkaew, this could well be true, but to add a bit of further background to how she got into the world of movies, she originally auditioned for the role of the child villager who has a fight scene in Panna Rittikrai’s 2004 movie ‘Born to Fight’. While she didn’t get the role, Panna was suitably impressed enough by her taekwondo skills that he took her under his wing, and put her through 4 years of prep and training which culminated in ‘Chocolate’. The movie, as you mentioned, was built around her talent and always intended to be a starring role for her.

  2. DougWonnacott says:

    Great review. I agree with you Paul. To be fair she did take a couple of years out recently to have a baby. I thought Raging Phoenix was excellent (if you completely ignore the plot).

    Jeeja’s career has followed the same path as Tony Jaa and Dan Chupong, one or two great films followed by not much else.

  3. Kyle Warner says:

    It’s been years since I first saw Chocolate but I remember loving it. Your review has convinced me that I need to revisit the movie soon.

  4. Paul Bramhall says:

    Yeah, it’s a shame that the couple of years out she took to have a baby had to be mid-way through filming ‘Tom Yum Goong 2’, essentially reducing her original co-star billing with Jaa to what was really just an extended cameo. I couldn’t get into ‘Raging Phoenix’ or ‘This Girl is Bad-Ass!’…I had high hopes for the Korean co-production ‘The Kick’, but even there she failed to shine.

    As for Chupong, he’s only really had 3 movies in which he plays the lead – ‘Born to Fight’, ‘Dynamite Warrior’, and ‘Vengeance of an Assassin’ – but I have to say I’ve enjoyed every one of them. I fear we won’t see anymore of him now though with Panna no longer with us, which is a pity, the guy has talent.

  5. DougWonnacott says:

    Born to Fight is the only Dan Chupong starrer I’ve seen. He was very impressive in Ong Bak 3 as well.

    It may not have much else going for it, but Raging Phoenix has some amazing stylized completely unique choreography.

    Panna Rittakrai seems to have been involved in one way or another with every Thai action film I’ve enjoyed. The only exception I can think of is Beautiful Boxer. I just hope the right people learned from him.

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