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November 2010

Force Of Five

cast: Nantawooti Boonrapsap, Sasisa Jindamanee, Arunya Pawilai, Nawarat Techarathanaprasert, and Paytaai Wongkamlao

director: Krissanapong Rachata

73 minutes (15) 2009
widescreen ratio 16:9
Showbox DVD Region 2

RATING: 6/10
review by William N. Dyer

Force Of Five

The central characters of the film are five children, three siblings (two boys and a girl) and two of their friends (a boy and a girl). I assume that they are the five referred to in the movie title. The youngest of them is a five-year-old boy with a weakening and terminal heart condition. He will need a heart transplant if he is to see his next birthday. This need becomes the pivotal issue of Force Of Five (aka: 5 huajai hero).

The film opens with a vicious firefight taking place in a jungle on the banks of a river. Two groups of soldiers are ruthlessly attacking each other. Many are wounded and killed. We snap cut to an urban setting, the home and training school of the father of the three siblings. He is a Thai boxing teacher. You're left wondering what the m�l�e at the start of the movie was about. The opening scene foreshadows events that will take place more than halfway through the film.

We are shown scenes of the children practicing and having fun while they learn the rudiments of Thai boxing from their teacher. There's some comedy here lightening the tone of the film from the opening sequence.

The film follows various set pieces that allow us to appreciate the abilities of these young martial artists. One example of this takes place when a big, white American bully goes too far in his actions and the four oldest children take him down. I get the impression of hinted racism here but I could be wrong. The incident also involves a middle aged, ultra-thin Japanese aspirant whom the children had been teaching Thai boxing. He helps the children, somewhat comically, in their attack on the bully.

The story moves forward and the heart condition of the youngest is forced into crisis through events. He needs an immediate transplant. He is rushed to hospital. There they find him a suitable heart at another hospital and they arrange for it to be rushed over for an emergency operation. However, the hospital where the heart is has been taken over by the terrorists we saw in the opening sequence of the movie. The four healthy children decide to go to the other hospital to recover the heart needed by the youngest of their group. Much fighting ensues and the heart is destroyed but through a kind act the young boy is saved.

I get the impression that the story is there only to serve the needs of the displays of fighting. But unlike some films there is a story to the film and there are a lot of martial arts scenes and fighting scenes which are well performed, and the terrorist scenes are well handled and are contextually relevant to furthering the storyline.

I might have assumed that with five child heroes that this film was aimed at an audience of children. I'm not sure how many parents would be happy with their children watching this film. There is a large amount of violence taking place even though tempered with some comedy.

The camerawork at some points is stunning. Someone in the production team has an eye for a great image. The film is not heavy on dialogue. This means that the subtitles are not obtrusive and are easy to read without diverting you from the visuals. It's all about the visual ballet of the Thai boxing. Those actors who play Thai nationals come across as well performed and authentic. The American and Japanese characters are more like cardboard cut-outs. These appear to be put in to make statements about the two outside races that have had an impact on that country in recent times.

I suppose we are all capable of displaying our tribal biases, though in this country we do not see it often on the big screen. Perhaps the honesty of saying what we think is a refreshing viewpoint to come across from avoiding the shackles of the thought and word police. Is this a real or forced naivety? Who can say? In spite of these doubts I thought the film was engaging, watchable and well crafted.

DVD extras: interview gallery, a 'making of' featurette, behind-the-scenes footage, the original theatrical trailer, plus other trailers.



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