Dynamite Warrior

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 07/21/07 18:21:30

"WTF: The Movie."
3 stars (Just Average)

“Dynamite Warrior” involves a rocket-riding hero, a dark wizard, a cannibal, cattle rustlers, men turned into beasts, and a magical spell fueled by the menstrual blood of a virgin. If we watch movies to see things we’ve never seen before, then dagnabbit, “Dynamite Warrior” delivers in spades.

The film is the latest bizarro action flick from Thailand, home of “Ong-Bak” and “The Protector.” This one’s extra-heavy on the nuttiness, a gonzo blend of martial arts action and wild fantasy. It’s the early 20th century, and the wicked Lord Waeng (Puttipong Sriwat) has hatched a nasty plan: since farmers are unwilling to buy tractors from him, he’ll create demand by stealing all their buffalo. Into this rides Jone Bang Fai (Dan Chupong of “Born to Fight”), who steals the buffalo back. His weapons: a serious knack for the Muay Thai fighting style and a steady supply of homemade rockets, ignited by flint he shoots from his fingers. Some of the rockets he just fires at his enemies; the big one he saves as his transportation, jumping on top like it’s a flying skateboard, holding on to the reins and blazing into the sky.

It’s a terrific sight, and one of the most inventive gimmicks in recent martial arts cinema. The rest of the film can’t quite match that sense of wonder. It tries - boy howdy, does it ever try. Director Chalerm Wongpim piles on the action at full speed, and these sequences work. (We don’t even mind that unlike most recent Thai actioners, this one relies entirely on special effects instead of genuine stuntwork. Some of the bits lose their impact through this - seeing our hero fly through a CGI hoop of fire doesn’t have the same kick as watching Tony Jaa dive head-first through a roll of real barbed wire - but for the most part, the fantasy elements of the story help explain away the need for effects cheats.) When the movie’s in action mode, it’s a great big frenzy, and it fits.

But the plot required to hold all these pieces together? The script spends too much time on unnecessary flashbacks and other overlong fits of exposition, all in an attempt to bring depth to the characters, most notably Jone Bang Fai, whose parents were killed long ago. It’s standard backstory that gets stretched out beyond its breaking point. Add to this a romance that never clicks, and “Dynamite Warrior” leaves us with too much down time.

Fortunately, much of that down time is filled with the most absurd pieces of off-the-wall storytelling you’ll ever encounter. Villains are wildly insane, plot twists are campy and fun, and the movie’s preoccupation with menstration so unusual that you just can’t turn away.

And that’s what ultimately makes “Dynamite Warrior” worth watching - it's just so damn weird. The comedy is too broad to ever work as funny, but it’s always amusing. The drama is so over-the-top to ever work as serious, but it’s always fascinating. The action is so manic that even when an effects shot fails, we’re thrilled to the core. “Dynamite Warrior” is not a good movie, but is it ever a fun one.

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