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September 2010

The Meat Grinder

cast: Mai Charoenpura, Anuway Niwartwong, Wiradit Srimalai, Rattanaballang Tohssawat, and Duangta Tungkamanee

director: Tiwa Moeithaisong

99 minutes (18) 2009
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
4 Digital Asia DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
review by Jason Brawn

The Meat Grinder

Noodle vendor Buss (Mai Charoenpura), who had an abusive childhood, kills and slices her victims into meatballs for noodle soup. This is another story about humans preserved as food, like in Sweeney Todd, and Roald Dahl's classic tale, Lamb To The Slaughter. However, the title of this Thai film made me feel that I could be watching a similar premise to The Corpse Grinders (1971), but I was wrong.

Some of the torture scenes are graphic, and the flashbacks reveal more about the killer's troubled past: paternal rape; her father getting her pregnant and marrying her off into a turbulent marriage. The Meat Grinder (aka: Cheuuat gaawn chim) also has dreamy images of the country's political unrest, which should have been toned down to build the narrative. The first 15 minutes do show a lot of promise, and then it loses track and later wanders off aimlessly.

Later, Buss does have a love interest. She falls for Attapon (Rattanaballang Tohssawat), a demonstrator who saves her from the striking police - during a riot. The structure is very complex, with its many flashbacks, and the subtitles appear and go far too quickly making Meat Grinder a very hard film to follow. Some of the flashback sequences are rather bleak, in their black and white format, and right towards the end I felt there was no twist, which is badly needed.

I like the portrayal of Buss and her evil husband, but wanted to know more about her male victims, for me to empathise with them. Instead, the director and co-writer (Tiwa Moeithaisong) spends far too much time explaining Buss' past. Perhaps if the story focused a little more on the victims, by showing them trying to escape, or trying to lead an ordinary life before their capture, then the story could have been well-balanced between the killer and victims' points of view.

That is why I feel Saw, and Hostel, and other slasher films work, because we learn more about the victims before the killer gets them. Also, after watching the flashbacks here, I don't know whether to root for the characters or not. If this was to be a revenge flick, like I Spit On Your Grave (1978), then I would have cheered out loud for Buss, as the film's heroine.

However, I do not dislike this film, as it has guts, and the cinematography and editing (Tiwa Moeithaisong again) are great. I would like to see more from the director. Meat Grinder is an average film let down by its script.



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