Listen up, folks, cause here comes some truth: if watching a 90-pound girl kick the almighty shit out of hundreds of dudes for an hour and a half is your thing, Chocolate is YOUR flick. I mean, seriously - this is some awesomeness right here. Ong-Bak do it for ya? Born to Fight make your heart rate skyrocket? Then pop ol’ Chocolate into your player and let it pound you into a daze of happiness.
Chocolate - directed by the new Thai master of martial-arts madness, Prachya Pinkaew (responsible for the other 2 flicks I mentioned above) - tells the story of a young girl, Zen (JeeJa Yanin), who was born out of a forbidden love. See, her parents had this Romeo and Juliet kinda thing goin’ on, where Mom was part of a Thai gang and Dad was a Yakuza (or maybe a Triad, it doesn’t really matter - they weren’t supposed to get it on is the point); Mom got pregnant with Zen and Dad split back home. Zen, who is autistic, grew up loving certain things, like her Mom, chocolate candy, and martial-arts flicks. Turns out Zen is kinda gifted in that she’s got what could be called photographic muscle memory. She sees it done and she can do it. I don’t know, I think it’d be pretty rad if after watching Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan that I could then whip ass they way they do. Then again, I think I actually thought that as a kid - I have specific memories of watching Bloodsport at 12 and promptly launching myself off our living room coffee table with some serious flying kicks. But I digress.
Here’s the plot in a nutshell, then: Zen’s mom gets sick with cancer and is dying. They’re broke and are struggling to pay the medical bills. Mom’s old collection notebook - with information on who owes her what - is found and Zen goes out, again and again, to collect Mom’s money. The assholes who owe it don’t want to pay, Zen beats the holy living Christ out of all of them, repeat until end credits.
That is all. But lemme tell you: there’s a lot of “all” there. As in, it’s all bad for those who owe, and eighty-seven different kinds of all good for any action fans who happen to be watching.
Truth be told, the flick IS a tad slow in the early going. The filmmakers take a little bit of time to set up the story (thin as it is) and Zen’s condition (Yanin ain’t Dustin Hoffman, but she does a fine job of playing our autistic heroine) before getting to the good stuff. And roughly 20 to 30 minutes in, the good stuff arrives, and it’s just as sweet as the titular treat. You can obviously see some Bruce and Jackie, as well as some Tony Jaa-style Muay Thai (if it’s not clear enough, one scene has Zen watching Ong-Bak on TV, so no excuses). Yanin is not the type of girl who exudes toughness, but it’s made up for in her tenacity. All she knows is “go here, get money, whip ass if they say no” and she does just that. One nice touch I liked was that - specifically due to her being a tiny slip of a girl - she fights the same guys over and over again in every scene. She kicks them in the head or whatnot, they go down, but don’t stay down. They get up and come after her once more, she punches or boots ‘em again. . .then they get back up for more, until she’s finally worn them out. It’s a clever addition, and should go a ways toward shutting up random meatheads who’d say “there’s no way that little chick would kick MY ass - I could take anything she threw at me.” Yeah, but after the fifteenth time getting walloped in the dome, you might lose consciousness, ya think?
The stuntwork (and not just by Yamin) is, as to be expected from these guys, nothing short of amazing and it never fails to blow my mind just how far they’ll go to get the shot. I mean, this shit can be BRUTAL - but it’s so much better to watch all of this and know it’s actually in-camera stunts and real guys getting really hurt (I refrain from feeling bad about deriving such pleasure from it by telling myself that they‘re professionals). There’s a montage over the end credits of all the mistakes and injuries, Jackie-Chan style; proof positive that you’re getting your money’s worth as a viewer. There’s acrobatics that Tony Jaa would smile at, epic beatdowns a-plenty, and it never gets old. Matter of fact, the final 40 minutes is simply one sustained action sequence, broken up by a minute or two here and there so the craziness can move to a new location. Not to mention the final fight scene, which takes place outside a four-story hotel. . .wait. I meant it takes place on THE SIDE of a four-story hotel, going up and down, through windows and on top of signposts coming out of the walls and across to the overpass directly across the street and back to the sides of the hotel again. This seems to go on for ten straight minutes and is brilliantly choreographed, shot, and executed in every single conceivable way. It’s without a doubt one of the top ten fight scenes or action sequences I’ve ever been lucky enough to witness.
As far as the DVD features go, I have no idea as I checked this out on Netflix instant streaming, but a glance online tells me that the only extra is a EPK featurette from Thai TV. So I suppose that could be cooler but we aren’t in this for the bells and whistles, people - we showed up to see some badass action and that’s what they smacked us in the face with.
Basically if you get off on a good kung-fu flick you’ll love this. I talked to a friend of mine immediately after seeing it, and while he enjoyed it, he did bitch a little about “the video-game nature of it all.” You know, that every action sequence is topped by the one after it, they get more and more elaborate as it goes on, not unlike levels in a game, complete with a big-boss type at the end. I gotta say, it’s not that I disagree with him - it’s that I DON’T CARE. When I’m having this much fun watching a movie that kicks this much ass for so much of the running time, little nitpicks about bullshit like “plot” and “character” and “good writing” seem beside the point. Not with every movie, mind you. But certainly with this movie, and that ain‘t a bad thing.