Vengeance of an Assassin (2014) Review

"Vengeance of an Assassin" Theatrical Poster

"Vengeance of an Assassin" Theatrical Poster

Director: Panna Rittikrai
Writer: Wichit Wattananont
Producer: Somsak Techaratanapraser
Cast: Changprung Chupong, Nantawooti Boonrapsap, Ping Lumprapleng, Ooi Teik Huat, Nui-Kessarin Ektawatkul
Running Time: 99 min

By oneleaf

Natee (Changprung Chupong) and Than (Nantawooti Boornrapsap) are orphans raised by their parent’s friend (Ping Lumprapleng). Never knowing their parents or how they died, the two boys had always wondered who was responsible for their murder. The pursuit of vengeance is the centerpiece of Vengeance of an Assassin, the last film by Panna Rittikrai before his untimely death at the age of 53 (from complications associated with acute liver and kidney failure).

Rittikrai started his career in 1979 as a physical trainer for Bangkok actors. Inspired by Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, he later started his own stunt team, PNP Stunt Team (Muay Thai Stunt Team). He appeared in countless films throughout the 80s, but it was Gerd Ma Lui (1986) that gave him his first directorial feature.

In addition to being the mentor to Tony Jaa (Ong-Bak), JeeJa Yanin (Chocolate) and Dan Chupong, Rittikrai was the main instrument that launched all three of their film careers. But to most, Rittikrai will be remembered for his groundbreaking choreography work in the acclaimed Ong-Bak (2003) and Tom-Yum-Goong (2005), both of which starred Jaa.

Vengeance of an Assassin reunites Rittikrai and Chupong from their Born to Fight (2004) collaboration. The film opens with a very unusual sequence of men screaming, kicking and punching each other while trying to maneuver a soccer ball in a dusty industrial warehouse. At one point, while the men are going at it in slow motion, they try to kick a ball in a small body of water, which appears out of nowhere. It makes absolutely no sense, but is fun to watch. Maybe Rittikrai was experimenting with some of his shots?

Vengeance of an Assassin mixes gunplay with hand-to-hand combat. Some of the firefights feel out of place. On numerous occasions, camera placement is at odds with what’s transpiring on screen. One such sequence involves an unknown figure entering a restaurant while opening fire on men (credit jones). The scene, which was filmed with the camera pointing up-below the waist from the assailant’s viewpoint (shot to hide the identity of the assailant), felt more like a video game than a movie, which left me with an unpleasant viewing experience.

Other problems in the movie was the use of CGI that didn’t match the surrounding scenery. Case in point was a scene on a speeding train where the the landscaping on both sides of the train look unreal and blurry. The color scheme of explosions didn’t match either. The compositing and rendering of images were so off that I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. Furthermore, when guys are fighting, it appears as if they’re on stationary platforms because they had no issues balancing themselves on a speeding train. These embarrassing visuals are not something you would expect from an experienced filmmaker like Rittikrai. It’s safe to assume that his health problems had something to do with the film’s careless post-production effects.

The martial arts combat, however, does not disappoint. One of the more exciting examples is Chupong’s fight with Nui-Kessarin Ektawatkul. This sequence takes place inside another warehouse where cables, pipes and anything within reach are used as weapons. What amazes me most is how Ektawatkul was able to go ballistic while wearing a sexy, sleeveless dress that didn’t seem to hinder any of her movements.

Another engaging action piece involves the elder Ooi Teik Huat versus a group of bad guys. He quickly disarms them with a rapid fire succession of punches, low kicks, throw downs and take downs. He’s not much of an actor, but his skills are stunning. My jaw literally dropped when I witnessed the exchanges on screen. So next time you see an older gentleman doing his morning Tai Chi routine, you might want to cancel your scroffs.

The star of the film, no doubt, is Chupong, but I find Boornrapsap’s physical ability more entertaining. Being younger and more acrobatic, his 360º kicks definitely steal the show. One such frenetic scene involves him exchanging punches and kicks through several glass panes, as shards of glass scatter every which way between the two combatants.

The bare-bones plot, disjointed script, bad CGI and other flaws shouldn’t be a deterrent to enjoying Vengeance of an Assassin. Being Rittikrai’s last project, action enthusiasts should embrace this important piece of Thai action cinema. R.I.P. Ah Gjan (“Teacher” in Thai) Panna, you will be sorely missed.

oneleaf’s Rating: 6/10

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6 Responses to Vengeance of an Assassin (2014) Review

  1. DougWonnacott says:

    Great review. Bad acting, bad CGI and bad plot can be cancelled out by good Panna Rittakrai choreography. Sounds like it might go in the same catagory as Bangkok Knockout and Born to Fight (2004) which I absolutely love.

    As soon as it’s available in the UK I will be buying it.

    • oneleaf says:

      Appreciate your comments and I’m glad you like the review. Like most Thai action films that you mentioned, I concur with your assessment that acting, plot, and cgi are not strong points. The action is where you’ll find the movies entertaining. I would also recommend Dynamite Warrior by the same lead actor reviewed by HKF. You get to see Rittikrai playing the villain in that role and watch him fight. A lot of knee action and leaps in that film.

  2. Paul Bramhall says:

    I’m in the same boat as Doug on this one….although for me I find ‘Born to Fight’ to have a very high re-watch value, whereas with ‘Bangkok Knockout’ I feel it’s more of a watch once show-reel. I’m hoping that the presence of Dan Chupong is what make’s the difference, and either way, it’ll be great to see him in a lead role again.

  3. DougWonnacott says:

    I agree with you Paul. Born to Fight I can rewatch again and again. I love all the over the top sports based fight action. How come the one legged super kicker didn’t appear in anything else? He was very impressive.

    For some reason I overlooked Dynamite Warrior. I’ll see if I can get it cheap on dvd.

  4. HKFanatic says:

    I just watched this movie tonight and agree with your assessment, oneleaf. On one hand, I’m disappointed that the movie felt so poorly slapped together for the most part, with only a few moments that ascend to the kind of hyper-kinetic action/violence we expect from Panna. At the same time, I find it hard to hold it against the film, considering the unfortunate circumstances around which it was made.

    I have to say the warehouse fight you mention with Dan Chupong, in which he dispatches a series of thugs in increasingly grisly ways (I’ve never seen a license plate used as a weapon before!) was the highlight for me. Nothing else in the film managed to top it.

  5. oneleaf says:

    Appreciate your comments. You bring up a lot of good points. The film could have been so much better but being in poor health it is understandable that Rittikrai “missed” a lot of things in putting the whole thing together. Nonetheless, the film is a fitting finale from one of Thai’s finest director/martial artist for all of us martial art film lovers to remember him by.

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