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June 2010

Bangkok Adrenaline

cast: Daniel O'Neill, Priya Suandokemai, Gwion Jacob Miles, Conan Stevens, and Raimund Huber

director: Raimund Huber

83 minutes (15) 2009
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Optimum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
review by Paul Higson

Bangkok Adrenaline

Raimund Huber's Bangkok Adrenaline doesn't half take some time to find its feet... but then proceeds to kick the crap out of everyone with them. The first 30 minutes of the film are a real problem... cast almost entirely with professional scrappers not actors, shot on hi-def giving it too immediate a sheen, about an international foursome of friends visiting Bangkok and irksomely broad in its humour, Bangkok Adrenaline feels like some spoilt millionaire's offspring's movie ambition. Mike (Cwion Jacob Miles), Conan (Conan Stevens), John (the director, Huber), and Dan (Daniel O'Neill) present themselves as feckless, reckless hucksters whose gambling lands them in the maw of a local gangster who threatens to remove a finger for every thousand baht that they owe him.... and for what they owe him there are not enough digits on the four to go around... nowhere near.

The script and the attempts at acting are sub-amateur while the shots at comedy are as unfunny as a cyst on your guiche. Most grating of all is mon capitain gurner Huber in the yoiks of a Shaggy role. Skint and the clock ticking we witness a series of pathetic comic sketches showing the individual members of the group as they try to stump up the money. That failing they make the obvious alternative decision of kidnapping heiress Irene (Praya Suandokmai). Her father is businessman Harris (Liam Noel Harrison) but the fortune is her late mother's, most of which will come to her when she reaches the age to collect.

Harris also happens to be a powerful and dangerous gangster and, given the undeserved rewards it would bring his way, is not that interested in the return of his daughter alive. This will be much to the chagrin of at least two of his hard-men employees, Lek and Hans (Dom Hetrakul and Lex de Groot) who are devoted to the girl. To begin with, though, they are unaware of the double-cross, and lead a small army in pursuit of the girl to recover her and kill her abductors. Harris plans for a botched delivery of the ransom that he anticipates will result in the death of Irene, but is a crime too far that is never a real consideration of the kidnappers. The first half hour hints at some of the skills of the team particularly le parkour talents of Daniel O'Neill but it is too minimal to conjure interest.

So far, so horrible, so where is the remote control and so which is the fast forward or off switch - but then something occurs. It is the point in the movie when Mike and Dan attempt the collection of the ransom that the film is rescued. The action begins and some hard fighting ensues. The fights are ferocious, impactful and, above all, superbly choreographed. Given the apparent complete absence of creative ability that has preceded it the first major fight is surprising and welcome. The action is caught from multiple camera angles and given the content of the fights the continuity is remarkable and the last thing expected. Neither does this precision end with this sequence but the breathers between action scenes now become very brief.

The stunt running and acrobatics and the various martial arts brawling keep the viewer alert and in minor thrall from this point in until the end and every member of the cast bar Harrison is a party in the fight-play. Huber continues his awful comic routine before the cameras but we are now largely spared it as the stunts and fisticuffs overtake the movie. Huber's genuine abilities lie behind the camera and that is where he should stay. The martial arts boys' club mentality diminishes as the film deserts any attempt to further explain itself with additional plotting. The team is split up and several action strands begin with the group reforming for the thunder-punch finale, their numbers bumped up to seven as they are joined by Lek and Hans, but also by a kick-fighter for hire, drafted in by John.

The screen-time is not divvied up fairly, giant of a man Conan barely landing a punch despite his apparent strongman label. Miles and O'Neill make the bigger impression and O'Neill in particular is the real star of the film and the performer with the potential to become the next big action hero, slipping through narrow gaps six feet above ground, rebounding off packaging, dodging and delivering kicks, his skills are not just a martial art or le parkour but a combination and that is his selling point. Skip some of the first half hour or bear with it because the final 50 minutes are worth seeing and let's hope that the makers learn by their terrible mistakes and match the choreography with a real scriptwriter next time.

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