Barely a month has passed since I reviewed Big Man Japan, and there’s already another new release with the same idea. Alright, so Demon Warriors isn’t a Godzilla-inspired satire, but it too embraces the concept of superpowered beings whose abilities have come at a price. Big Man Japan took the comedic route, while Demon Warriors is decidedly darker, grittier, and all-around moodier. It also has a better handle on what it wants to do, which makes this Thai action flick a more consistent ride. But the further it travels, the more hiccups it gathers, the final result being a film that shifts too often between “preachy” and “badass.”
As with many pictures before it, Demon Warriors claims a whole other world co-exists with our own. Living amongst mankind are creatures of the supernatural, some of whom are referred to as the Opapatika. These are humans who took their own lives to get a glimpse at the beyond and were reborn with uncanny powers. Techit (Putthipong Sriwat) has just joined their ranks, recruited by the mysterious Master Sadok (Nirut Sirichanya) for a special assignment. Four renegade Opapatika have apparently been doing their best to jack up the country’s mortality rate. Techit, now with the ability to read minds (at the expense of his senses), joins the hunt and helps track down the deadly demons. But our boy comes to learn of Sadok’s true intentions, at which point he finds his loyalty torn between his new master and those he’s been tasked to kill.
If you thought Bruce Wayne pondered his status as Batman in The Dark Knight, then there’s a whole lot of brooding going on in Demon Warriors. Virtually no one is happy to be immortal or summon a demonic double here, but who could blame them? When doing so can rob your sight or warp your body into a monstrous state, it makes sense to use these powers sparingly. I have no problem with a little introspection, but when everyone gets ten minutes to whine about their skills, you almost want to tell them the new Twilight movie is casting next door. Luckily (for the first hour or so, at least), Demon Warriors doesn’t lose its sense of fun for too long. Whenever a monologue is employed, you can rest assured that a brutal action sequence is coming to pick up the pace. The film may not be working with the most resources, but it does a great job with what’s given, serving enough blood-spattered battles to satisfy action and horror junkies alike.
Demon Warriors can be a lot of fun when it wants to and includes a fascinating mythos to boot. I did enjoy how for every cool superpower, there’s a nasty side effect; my favorite was the killer whose body duplicates the wounds he leaves others with. But the more the filmmakers tried to incorporate an actual story, the messier Demon Warriors became. I know logic has no call for being in movies with immortals and tiger women, but you can see this one straining to make the slightest bit of sense. There’s no reasoning behind Techit’s dilemma; sure, Sadok might not be Joe Nice Guy, but how does that excuse his rivals for their murderous misdeeds? In fact, Techit has little purpose here to begin with, as he’s granted little screen time, and resident tough guy duties are mostly assumed by Pongpat Wachirabunjong as Sadok’s right-hand man. There’s a girl involved, as well (ain’t there always?), though her ultimate purpose is ruined by her vague presence in the story at large.
I normally address remakes the same way Van Helsing would Count Dracula, but for Demon Warriors, I can make an exception. There’s a great flick to be made out of the mythology here, were a bigger budget and an extra script polish added to the mix. That’s not to say it misses the occasional homer, but the best way to keep the badassery of Demon Warriors thriving is to hit “stop” at the halfway mark.