2003’s “Ong Bak” set the Muay Thai martial arts flick bar high – really, really high. Look at me cum all over this movie right here. So ever since, when another Muay Thai ass kicker comes floating down the pike, one can’t help but get all giddy for more “Ong Bak” goodness. Unfair expectations, you say? Yeh, mebee. But it also doesn’t help that all of these movies are promoted as the next movie from the “blah, blah, blah” who brought you “Ong Bak.” So, expectations justified. And those expectations, as of yet, haven’t even come close to being met. Most notably there’s “Born to Fight,” featuring an entire village rising up to thunder down Muay Thai kickassery on its oppressors, was a bit of alright, but nothing to write to your prison pen pals about; “Tom Yum Goong,” starring “Ong Bak”’s martial arts super star Tony Jaa, was a miserable, childish mess about stolen elephants that’s so bad you’ll find yourself seriously re-evaluating how you spend your spare time; and now there’s “Dynamite Warrior,” and the results aren’t exactly DYNOMITE!
Set in the late 1800’s in pre-industrialized Thailand, “Dynamite Warrior” tells the story of the eeeeeevil Lord Wang (huh, huh, huh, huh,) who plots to give his tractor business a boost by stealing all of the buffalo in the land. Enter masked crime fighter, Jone Bang Fai, who is already lurking in the midst of the buffalo hustling biz as he’s on the lookout for the buffalo bandit that killed his folks ten years ago. Taking to firing rockets (hell, even riding one for whenever dramatic effect calls) at his enemies, Jone Bang Fai is revered as a hero due to his vanquishing of thieves and returning cattle back to their owners. But Lord Wang (huh, huh, huh, huh) has hired a number of heavy hitters to do his bidding for him and Jone Bang Fai finds that he’s got a helluva fight on his hands. That, and he finally stumbles across that guy who killed his parents. And if that’s not enough, he soon finds himself caught in the middle of a feud between two rival wizards. Oy vey!
The good news is that the action and fight sequences are great, even though vastly different from those of “Ong Bak.” “Ong Bak” prided itself on no CG and no wirework. “Dynamite Warrior” on the other hand is loaded up with wirework – the movie has a strong supernatural element, so I guess they figured they’d just go for it with the special effects. It’s purty to look at.
Bad news is that “Dynamite Warrior” is supposed to be a comedy, too. Rolled eyes and groans are what the filmmakers get for their efforts rather than laughs. In fact, the few laughs found in this film are unintentional and at the expense of the movie’s shortcomings. Funny is what they were going for here – awkward and goofy is what they got instead.
Worse news is that nobody in the cast is very likeable, including Dan Chupong as the titular character. It’s not that he’s unlikeable, his screen presence is just lacking. To me, he was just some dude who could fight and launch rockets and that doesn’t bode well for someone who’s supposed to be playing a “dynamite warrior.” No charisma, no peace. The rest of the cast, if they’re not annoying, then they’re just as forgettable.
The worst news is that “Dynamite Warrior” is needlessly convoluted, bogged down with unnecessary back story, flashbacks, double crosses, plot twists – it’s more aggravating than entertaining. This is the film’s largest downfall – there’s way too much bullshit to wade through to get to the meaty bits you came to the table for. In the end, it’s just not worth it.
Where “Ong Bak” succeeds so mightily is in its simplicity and purity. It’s a 100% pure action flick, no bullshit added. A sacred statue gets stolen from a village, the village sends their greatest warrior to the city to get it back, and the warrior whoops everyone’s ass before his mission is complete. There! Simple! And the movie leaves you breathless because you’re in from A to Z. You’re not distracted by needless garbage. GAH! The more I think about it, the more pissed off I am about this movie. It’s a mess. There you have it.