by Corey Hall
Congrats Thailand; with the release of this heartwarming tale of an explosives loving, rocket surfing, kickboxing farmer-superhero, you've officially eclipsed Hong Kong as the leading exporter of utterly insane action films. Kudos also to indie distributor Magnolia, which has recently imported other wild Thai gems, the stunt happy films of star Tony Jaa and the deliriously weird and stunning cowboy shootout-musical Tears of the Black Tiger.
Fans of those flicks and of martial arts lunacy in general, will be well served by Dynamite, which wages a fairly relentless assault on the senses from the moment the lights go down. It's a completely gonzo combat period piece, where the grubby looking cast favors ponchos, mustaches and big floppy straw hats that make them look a bit like banditos from a spaghetti western; replace pasta with sticky rice and you start to get the curious flavor here, though it's far more bat-shit crazy than anything crusty Clint ever did.
The plot? Well I can't really say, 'cause the review copy sent to me was mysteriously free of dubbing or subtitles. Not that a whole lot of exposition is needed to figure out that our humble 1890s peasant-mad bomber is at war with an army of water buffalo rustlers employed by an evil land baron (whose split lip and ludicrously elevated pompadour is glorious). Evil baron wants to replace all the people's beasts of burden with his newfangled tractors.
According to IMDB the hero's name here is Jone Bang Fai (Dan Chupong), and he's a tremendous stuntman, but a fairly dodgy actor. Who cares? He's an impressive Muay Thai expert, forever launching through the air and crushing foes with a lot of well-placed knee and elbow strikes. He's also adept at flipping, diving, jumping through flaming bamboo hoops and making with the boom booms, which he hurls around on metal disks or shoots off like missiles. Good thing too, as he's up against all sorts of baddies such as a cannibalistic giant, a machete wielding dwarf, and animal-tattooed henchmen who hop around and growl.
Most dangerous of all is the hideously scarred mystic villain who throws people around without touching them, Darth Vader style.
Loopy fantasy elements lend the proceedings an unpredictable atmosphere, suspending disbelief anything can happen at any given moment; it's not quite a live action cartoon like Kung Fu Hustle but it's damn close. The set pieces are exciting, though totally silly, and not much screen time is wasted on distractions like the love story or character development. The pic just moves, fast enough to avoid contemplation, as if it was racing against a burning fuse to a fiery climax.
Midnight, Friday and Saturday, July 13 and 14 at the Main Art Theatre, 118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111. In Thai with English subtitles.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.