Director: Nirattisai Kaljareuk
Producer: Jareuk Kanjareuk
Starring: Arnut Rapanit, Lalisa Sontirod, Than Thanakorn
Duration: 100 min
A low budget Thai action epic, Edge of the Empire should really have been saved for one of my video marathons, as it is the very definition of a cheesy action film. Unfortunately, it has a few too many problems to raise it above a mere definition though.
The film tells a simple, patriotic tale which crams in a few too many characters to keep it as simple as it should be. Basically, in the 12th Century the Han Empire has a stranglehold on Thailand and treats it's people like slaves and animals. After one village is ravaged and it's inhabitants tortured and killed, a small group of villagers band together to fight the evil regime off once and for all. There are a bunch of personal vendettas added to the mix too which I won't go into, but I'm sure you get the picture.
It's a tough one to review, as it was clearly quite a poor film, but I had a fair amount of fun with it because it was so unintentionally silly. It's brutally violent, but in such an over the top way that it becomes quite amusing. A scene where a woman mourns the death of her partner who's decapitated head has just been fired towards her, still attached to the arrow, made me laugh out loud. Plus the main bad guy is so ludicrously evil, bathed in red light for half of the film and spending his time throwing peasants in boiling cauldrons, that he becomes an 18-rated pantomime villain.
Like many Eastern genre releases, it does feel too much like propaganda though. Maybe it's the Brit in me that hates showing such brazen patriotism, but when a film has to bring up the honour/strength/unity of the Thai people every 5 minutes, it feels a bit much. These earnest moments spoil the fun and sap the energy from the film too. It's action packed and although the fighting isn't all that elaborately choreographed, it's brutal and frequent enough to be enjoyable to watch. I did start to grow tired of it by the end though, so maybe removing one or two of the unnecessary fights and trimming the running time would have done it some favours.
Edge of the Empire tries very hard to be something more than what it is, which gives it a certain plucky charm, but at the same time makes you realise how good some of the films it is mimicking actually are. There's an embarrassing moment early on when some colourful fabric is used to try and achieve the 'Hero-effect' which fails miserably. At times the film does look good though and fair game to the filmmakers for going for it. It's occasionally boldly colourful and although the painted-in backgrounds they use frequently are clearly fake, they look quite pretty in themselves. The CGI blood is frustrating though as ever and some of the cinematography is amateur-looking with some early scenes looking poorly exposed (under and over).
So, as I mentioned from the start, this is pure trash cinema, but I enjoyed it more than I probably should have. It's heavily flawed and clear Thai propaganda, but if you're in the mood for a giggle and find excessive cartoonish violence funny then this is your film.
Edge of the Empire is out on DVD and Blu-Ray on 4th April in the UK, released by Metrodome. The DVD is bare bones with no special features and forced subtitles. The picture and sound quality is disappointing, with a murky image which lacks detail and muddy, weak sound. This could be largely down to the low budget nature of the film, but I still think it could have looked and sounded better.
Review by David Brook
The trailer, which is probably worth watching instead of the film as it makes it look brilliant: