Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Screenplay: Jong-suk Lee
Starring: Jae-hyeon Jo, Ji-won Ye, Petchtai Wongkamlao, Tae-joo Na, JeeJa Yanin
Producers: S.K. Kang, Sukanya Vongsthapat
Country: Thailand/South Korea
Running Time: 94 min
BBFC Certificate: 15
I made a grave error in watching Thai/Korean action comedy The Kick pretty much straight after Michael Haneke's raw and exceptional Amour. I'm a firm believer in the 'variety is the spice of life' principal and steer my music and film consumption in this direction, but sometimes two things just don't go together and The Kick was worse off in the pairing. But that's not to say I didn't enjoy it or that I'd have loved it otherwise. I just think it's worth mentioning as it didn't get the film off to a great start when I popped it on late last night.
But let's backtrack. The Kick, which is directed by Prachya Pinkaew, the man behind Ong-Bak and Warrior King, introduces us to a family of Taekwondo experts, the father of which narrowly missed out on getting a gold medal in the olympics. He is determined that his eldest son Tae Yang (Tae-joo Na) achieve what he failed to do. Unfortunately Tae Yang is much more interested in becoming a dancer. Everyone's hopes and dreams are put on hold though when Tae Yang thwarts the attempts of a gang of thieves to get hold of a priceless artifact, the 'Kris of Kings'. The gang get away and vow to take revenge on the family, making life very difficult for them, culminating in the abduction of the youngest son, Typhoon.
The opening credits state the film is endorsed by the Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism of Korea, the Small & Medium Business Administration of Korea and the Korea Venture Investment Inc, with the participation of several major world Taekwondo associations. This level of state/organisational backing doesn't often bode well for films, generally signalling a 90 minute advertisement. Well, The Kick does put Korea and Taekwondo front and foremost, but thankfully it's nowhere near as jingoistic as some of the Chinese state-funded films I've seen and it certainly puts on a good show for the sport.
In terms of being a martial arts showcase, The Kick is great. There are a hell of a lot of action scenes. Granted, some are rather shoe-horned in, but they keep the film motoring along. Most of the main leads clearly know their stuff and the film is loaded with high kicking moves which seem to defy the limitations of human flexibility. Chocolate and Raging Phoenix star JeeJa Yanin plays a reasonably big part as a relative also gifted in martial arts and she delivers plenty of great fight scenes as she did in those previous efforts. It's main star Tae-joo Na who really impresses though, bringing credibility to the potentially ridiculous scenes where he uses elaborate dance moves to fight off the bad guys. There are a few more interesting spins added to the action scenes elsewhere too as one fight turns into a 'Stomp' style rhythmic musical break and another makes great use of the ceiling fans spinning above the fighters.
It's not all good news though. As great as the fight scenes are, the film that attempts to hold them up is pretty poor. The comedy is weak and childish which doesn't match the 15 rating, but that's often the case in these Asian action comedies. What is probably even weaker than usual is the general storytelling, direction and editing. The film feels so sloppy throughout, crashing between scenes with all the grace of a sledgehammer and it's mightily dumb. If it wasn't for the exceptional level of action in the final 20 minutes I'd have given up on the film and given it a much lower rating here.
Luckily, the fight fan in me gave much of the film's failings a pass. Not enough to praise the film particularly highly, but enough to honestly say I enjoyed myself. Only hardcore action fans need apply though, anyone else is going to struggle to find something to appreciate here, but you probably knew that already.
The Kick is out on 7th October in the UK on DVD, released by MVM. The picture quality is fine and the sound is decent enough. The mix was a bit weak but I think that was largely down to the film itself rather than the transfer. There are no features other than a couple of trailers although you do get a choice between the original Korean audio or the dubbed English version, which is a nice option to have (not that I'd ever want to listen to the dub personally).