“Dynamite Warrior” – A.J. Hakari

It’s the job of us critics to dive head-first into a linguistic pool when it comes to describing and summarizing the films we see. But once in a while, we run into something like Dynamite Warrior, about which only a good, old-fashioned “What the hell?” will suffice.

 

In this gonzo hybrid of Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior, the Fourth of July, and Zorro, Dan Chupong plays a young warrior by the name of Jone Bang Fai in turn-of-the-century Thailand. Ever since his parents were mercilessly slaughtered when he was a child, he’s dedicated his life to hunting down the tattooed cattle rustler responsible, waging war against all enemies with both his fighting skills and a seemingly endless supply of fireworks in tow. One day, Fai finally stumbles upon whom he thinks is the culprit, a cattle trader named Sing (Samart Payakarun) who possesses otherworldly powers. Fai finds himself aided in his quest for vengeance by the foppish Lord Waeng (Leo Putt), who, unbeknownst to our hero, is actually using him as a pawn in a grand scheme to steal all the cattle in the land and force the farmers to buy his tractors. Having already defended the poor and defenseless on various occasions, Fai is about to enter the fight of his life, battling a slew of bandits and hunting down his parents’ real killer, in the name of both justice and revenge.

 

I’m usually not one to scan through other reviews of a film before I’m done writing my own reactions, but I just had to see what others thought of Dynamite Warrior as soon as the credits started rolling. I have to say that what I have to say pretty much falls right in tune with most of the other reactions you’re likely to read: this flick is as crazy as they come. How else can you describe a movie that’s part Muay Thai martial arts flick and part Western, with everything from cannibal cattle rustlers and evil sorcerers thrown in for good measure? But what’s important is that Dynamite Warrior grabs a bit more consistency in balancing its more insane sequences with its moments of down time. Unlike the similarly goofy Thai import Tears of the Black Tiger, which went for broke in some parts and made others dreadfully dull to watch, Dynamite Warrior remains pretty interesting through and through. That’s not to say that the main story isn’t as predictable as all get-out (gee, maybe the guy called the Black Wizard has something to do with Fai’s parents’ murder…), or that some of the fight scenes look a little bit stagey, at least in comparison to the crisp moves of Tony Jaa in Ong-Bak.

 

Thankfully, these moments add up to just a little bit of a deterrence, as on the whole, the wave of crazy crashing throughout Dynamite Warrior is enough to grab your attention and keep it, even if almost solely based on a “WTF?” factor. You’ve got the bandit leader who’s so hungry, he’ll eat his own men if he has to; Sing’s ability to call up animal spirits to possess his men; and a woman whose menstrual blood is the only thing that can take down a sorcerer, thus leading to a particularly bizarre section of the film where Jone Bang Fai literally waits for her to have her period. Although a pretty scattershot and barely effective means of fighting one’s foes, there’s something inherently cool about seeing dozens of fireworks hurtling through the air, especially when Fai is the type of badass that can get away with surfing on a bigger rocket from time to time. If the filmmakers were hoping to plant the seeds of a new martial arts franchise with Fai as the figurehead, then they’ve certainly done the job, since I’m definitely interested to see what adventures follow this guy next.

 

There are very few lines that I take great pleasure in writing, but this flick has managed to inspire such a sentence: If you see only one Thai film in your life that revolves around kicking asses, exploding rockets, exploding tractors, wizardry, and menstruation, make sure Dynamite Warrior is it.

 

Rating: ★★★☆

 

-A.J. Hakari

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