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The Asian ApertureChocolate
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, March 20, 2011    Share

I have long put off watching this Thai action movie for some unknown reason but I finally got around to seeing it Friday night. Chocolate has some good action scenes and an emotional story that will keep viewers wanting to see more from first timer, Yanin “Jeeja” Vismistananda. This was a good start for Yanin. Chocolate is directed by Prachya Pinkaew. Pinkaew discovered Thai action star, Tony Jaa and directed Jaa in Ong Bak 1-3. The two had a falling out doing the filming of Ong Bak 2. Pinakaew needed someone to fill in the gap left by Tony Jaa and found it in the lovely Yanin. Chocolate is the result of Pinkaew showing off his newest star.

Chocolate tells the story of Zen, a young girl with autism who learns to the art of Muay Thai kickboxing by watching fighters train at a school near her house and watching martial arts movies on TV.
Zen's dad is a gangster in the Yakuza who was long ago told to return to Japan by his Thai wife, Zin. Mainly because Zin used to be the girlfriend of a Thai gangster who wants to continuously bother her after being dumped.
To make matters worse, Zin gets sick with cancer and the chemotherapy treatments are far too expensive for the small family to afford.
Zen teams up with a young overweight boy named Moom and together they help raise money. They do this by staging a contest out on the street. Zen sets in a chair as Moom becomes a barker and hands out small balls to the onlookers for cash. Zen catches each ball before she gets hit.
This goes on until Moom discovers a book that lists people who owe Zin money. Moom and Zen team up to show up at various businesses to collect payment. Naturally no one cares nor is anyone going to give up hard earned cash so Zen has to demonstrate her martial arts skills.
I won't give anyway any more of the plot, but things sour for the whole family when Zin's former Thai gangster boyfriend wants to put a stop to who is taking money from his businesses.

Yanin's Muay Thai combined with some Tae Kwon Do look good on screen and it is refreshing to see a tiny female be able to kick a 260 pound man in the face and send him flying into a wall. The strength of Chocolate is in the fight scenes and the fights look like the stuntmen went through serious bouts of pain. This was confirmed to me when I watched the end credits and saw the outtakes, a la Jackie Chan, of several stuntmen bleeding. One guy had a huge gash on his forehead that required stitches. After seeing how Zen trashed multiple opponents in Chocolate, I was convinced that potential was there to be a big star in Asia. It is still too early to see if Yanin will become an international star and join the ranks of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li. However, if she continues to make entertaining action movies, she is well on her way.

I wanted to like Chocolate more then I did. Part of the problem is someone learning martial arts just by watching TV or watching other people just didn't set well with me. For some of Zen's acrobatic kicks and hard hitting moves would require a good trainer or several trainers to prepare for that level of physical conditioning combined with martial arts. It is just not going to happen from sitting and watching movies. Also, the ending was filled with the usual cliches of martial arts action movies and it was fairly predictable. There is always hope as Yanin's next movie called Raging Phoenix looks like a much better movie. With that, Chocolate is definitely a movie action fans should check out because it works well for the first viewing.

3.5 Stars out of 5

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2011 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.

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