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By Felix Vasquez Jr. | June 5, 2007

After the craptacular disappointment that was “Spider-Man 3,” I was basically ready to write off the superhero genre, because even imports like “Silver Hawk” managed to deliver crushing blows of disappointment in spite of my excitement for them. “Spider-Man 3” surely sealed the deal being an awful third leg in an otherwise pretty good franchise.

“Mercury Man” is one of the few superhero movies I’ve sought out actively, in spite of the uniform he possesses which rings closely to the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man with also the obvious influences: A fire chief tells our main character: Great Power requires Great Responsibility, and as our hero is unveiled there’s a sign reading “Hi! Spidey!” below him; and the Spider-Man nods don’t end there.

Beyond the evident derivations, the story looked dazzling, and it helps that Panna Rittikrai, stunt coordinator for Tony Jaa’s action films oversees much of the stunts and choreography here. Sadly, “Mercury Man” was a financial disappointment in Thailand, and distributors hope to cash-in on the superhero craze by importing it here. Is “Mercury Man” just another superhero movie, or something special?

“Mercury Man” is the story of courageous but sloppy firefighter named Chan, a man who refuses to listen to superiors and act responsibly. Like all characters that fit his mold, he has no idea how to get his life together, and always attempts to play the hero. After a failed prison break results in a fire, Chan tags along with his unit, and is caught in the crossfire of criminals who stab him with an ancient relic and leave him near death.

Thus, as is the natural order of the comic book universe, with tragedy a new hero and a new villain are born. Chan learns of his new powers from the relic that is now embedded in his blood, and the crime syndicate, led by Afghani terrorist Osama Bin Ali, seeks the relics as a form of new weaponry in their holy war.

“Mercury Man” certainly isn’t typical; it’s an acquired taste that uses often surreal camp to ease the action instead of comedic relief. Our hero’s brother and sidekick is a post-op transsexual, and the explanation of Chan’s mysterious amulet that takes over his body reverts to a poor computer animated cartoon, for some reason. Not to mention the attempted social commentary falls flat more often than not.

But what it lacks in texture, it certainly makes up for with a rollicking atmosphere that makes the story of this super powered individual a blast. Thongdee certainly cooks up new ways to bring our hero Chan to realize his powers, including a particular moment involving a “Penthouse” Magazine. And once Chan becomes Mercury Man, suited in an eye catching uniform that looks like a combination of Spawn and Spidey, the action really makes up for the thin storyline.

Sadly, “Mercury Man” really isn’t a perfect movie. It lags in the first half with a convoluted plot involving Chan’s life as a firefighter, but it manages to pick up once Chan suits up as the masked hero intervening in many disasters and never being afraid to go over the top. In one scene Mercury Man knocks a drunk driver who nearly plows a child down in his car, to kingdom come. Thongdee’s superhero adventure won’t sit well with all audiences, but in spite of its caveats, there are still many old fashioned comic book plot devices included that works including a nightclub scenario involving an excellent series of fight scenes involving our title hero and a slew of colorful villains.

In the mix is a henchwoman named Areena, played with intensity and charisma by Metinee Kingpayome who often steals the scenes and takes on the role of the antithesis to our hero in the epic climax. “Mercury Man” provides much entertainment along with some rather fantastic action sequences, and even when cribbing from Spider-Man lore, it’s worth a watch if only to attempt to spot all the references to the wall crawler.

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