A violent gang is abducting and killing women around Thailand. Sanim and his friends, having had loved ones abducted, have joined together to break the gang of kidnappers. In a botched kidnap attempt, Deu is saved by Sanim's crew. After learning their unique martial arts style, Deu helps lure the gang into an epic battle to save the women across Thailand.
Things aren't going well for Deu; while performing as a drummer see sees her boyfriend chatting to another girl she overreacts and loses both the boyfriend and her place in the band. It looks like things can't get much worse but then she is kidnapped by people who intend to sell her to the infamous Jaguar Gang. She is rescued by Sanim and soon meets his friends 'Dog' and 'Pig'. She learns that they each had loved ones taken by the gang and are tried to destroy the gang. She asks to be taught their strange martial art; Meyraiyuth a skill which requires its user to be drunk! After training, they go up against the Jaguar Gang; things don't go quite as planned and they will be in a lot of danger as they search out the gang's fearsome leader.
This film is a bit of an odd one; it is sold as an action movie with emphasis on the fact that it is JeeJa Yanin's second film after the bone-crunching 'Chocolate' but much of this seems far more comic. The fighting seems more like stylised dance moves; impressively choreographed but for the most part lacking the impact one might expect. The story itself is fairly silly; the gang are kidnapping select people to extract their pheromones to make expensive perfume and the final scenes take place in what appears to be a bottomless pit with criss-crossing rope bridges that seem to serve no purpose other than to provide a nice setting for a multilevel fight! The cast do a decent enough job and if you can laugh at the silliness it is quite fun but nowhere near as memorable as 'Chocolate'.
These comments are based on watching the film in Thai with English subtitles. I wasn't expecting much from JeeJa Yanin's original film ("Chocolate"), but her physical talents were showcased in spectacular fashion and won me over despite the shortcomings in terms of scriptwriting. That film grew on me more and more after repeat viewings, but there still was room for improvement in the pacing and storyline elements. Enter "Raging Phoenix", which not only avoids a sophomore slump for JeeJa, but actually surpasses "Chocolate" in total entertainment value.
One way it does this is to allow JeeJa to express her camera presence and charisma. This was surprising to me personally, because her previous role in "Chocolate" was so introverted and robotic that it was essentially impossible to determine whether or not this girl could steal a scene without beating someone's brains in. In "Raging Phoenix", however, she really cuts loose during the opening half as she jokes around, engages in some funny dialogue, and participates in some light-hearted fight scenes involving drunken styles of martial arts. That one-vs-many boat brawl is – now wait for it – a boat-load of fun. JeeJa exhibits a natural likability that her fellow countryman Tony Jaa severely lacks. Don't misunderstand me, because I am a fan of Tony's films, but he has some serious limitations as all of his screen presence is earned through his (phenomenal) physical skills. JeeJa, on the other hand, portrays her character in a way that is very endearing. In other words, I'd love to have her as a younger sister. This charm is a major reason why this film is so entertaining. When the action scenes are bridged by good "non-action stuff", that's a huge plus.
The mood gets more serious when the kidnapping plot line is fleshed out more, but even here the film stays attention-grabbing with an interesting twist involving drug dealing. Now, I'm not saying that the script is incredibly strong. It's not going to win any awards in that realm, nor is it as strong as more dramatic action films like "Kill Zone" (2005), but it does build anticipation for the finale and establishes characters a bit more than usual. In addition, "Raging Phoenix" one-ups "Chocolate" by introducing a very strong lead antagonist during the latter half (played by Roongtawan Jindasing – Asian Pacific Women's Bodybuilding Champion). This lady is one tough son-of-a-gun who proves incredibly difficult to take down, which automatically makes things a bit more exciting than having JeeJa beat down random stuntmen the entire time.
Which brings us to the action scenes. There are some one-vs-many scenarios early on, but that shifts decisively towards one-on-one and two-on-one battles afterward, which results in some outstanding fist-a-cuffs. The "purists" need to stop complaining every time wires are used. I'm getting sick and tired of their whining, especially regarding movies like this that use wires effectively. The cavern hideout finale lasts a solid 30 minutes, and Roongtawan Jindasing hands out a great deal of damage to JeeJa and her buddies. It escalates to the point of making one's hairs stand on end, especially when JeeJa gets her second wind and slugs it out in EPIC fashion. That sequence must be an instant classic (at least in terms of girl vs girl mayhem). Heck, this entire film is an instant classic.
If you liked "Chocolate", you need to see this. If you didn't like "Chocolate", you need to see this anyways. It's truly an excellent action film, and quite possibly the best girl fighting movie ever made. 7cb1d79195
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