AKA: Ma noot lhek lai
Director: Bhandit Thongdee
Producer: Prachya Pinkaew, Sukanya Vongstthapat
Cast: Wasan Khantaau, Metinee Kingpayome, Arnon Saisangchan, Jinvipa Kheawkunya, Parinya Kiatbusaba, Darunee Khrittabhunyalai
Running Time: 101 min.
Supposedly the director of “Mercury Man” was targeting foreign markets with this film. If that’s the case, he’s got a long ways to go before this movie would successful in the West. At first glance, it’s a cool enough idea: a Thai superhero flick that blends the CG acrobatics of the “Spider-Man” movies with a bit of “Ong Bak”-style Muay Thai action. Our hero is a young firefighter ‘with a heart of gold’ who, through some far-fetched circumstances, ends up imbued with the power of an ancient Thai relic that gives him control over metal.
The problem arises in that the villain is a thinly veiled pastiche of a certain now-deceased terrorist leader, in the film named Osama Bin Ali (I kid you not), who delivers several lengthy diatribes about how the West is evil and how God has sent him on a mission to destroy America. This guy is even given a tragic backstory in which his family is murdered by stray bullets from US soldiers. So I guess we’re supposed to feel sorry for Mr. Terrorist Man? Now you can see why I face-palmed when I heard the filmmakers wanted “Mercury Man” to strike a chord with American audiences. No, my friends, I think your movie just pissed Middle America off!
It doesn’t help that the rest of the film suffers from a “me too” vibe when it comes to comic book movies. Mercury Man’s costume is cool but the way he uses his powers to magnetically attach to bridges and buildings just ends up looking a lot like Spider-Man. There’s also some very noticeable graffiti throughout the entire film that says things like “Hey Spidy!” or “Look at me, Spidy!” I think the filmmakers were trying to get Hollywood’s attention in the hopes of a future collaboration. Either that or they figured no one would criticize them for ripping off Marvel Comics if they pointed out the fact themselves. Frankly, I just found the constant Hollywood-baiting to be annoying.
The fight scenes were choreographed by Panna Rittikrai of “Ong Bak” and “Born to Fight” fame. There are a few cool fights but don’t expect anything near the level of a Tony Jaa movie. While Mercury Man uses plenty of Muay Thai moves, they lack the kinetic impact that you see in some of Panna’s other work. That said, I enjoyed the fight in a nightclub where the bad guys manage to temporarily rob Mercury Man of his powers; and when Mr. Mercury finally gets to fight a super-powered villain instead of your usual garden variety thugs at the very end of the movie, it’s a genuine highlight. If our hero was given more equally strong baddies like this to fight, I might actually be interested in a sequel.
As it stands, “Mercury Man” is something of a missed opportunity. The basic storytelling of the film is hampered by silly Engrish dialogue (“You mean…we can defeat him using erectricity?”) and shoddy editing. Its attempt to appeal to a Western audience backfires due to the script’s odd sympathy for terrorists and suicide bombers. The special FX are pretty good for the film’s purported budget of a million dollars but nobody is gonna mistake this for “Spider-Man 2” unless they’ve had too much to drink. What could have been a good, if not great, movie ends up a mere curiosity; only worth watching if you want to see Thailand take a stab at bringing a comic book-style hero to life. But for my money, Tony Jaa is more of a superhero than Mercury Man.
HKFanatic’s Rating: 5.5/10