Publicity Stills of "Tom Yum Goong"
(Courtesy from Golden Village)

Genre: Action
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Starring: Tony Jaa, Phetthai Wongkhamlao, Bongkod Kongmalai, Amonphan Gongtragan, Jin Xing, Nathan B Jones, Tri Nguyen, Damain De Montemas, David Chatchavan Asavanod
RunTime: 1 hr 50 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: NC-16

Opening Day: 3 November 2005

Synopsis :

“Tom-Yum-Goong” is the story of a young man named Kham (Tony Jaa) whose life is turned upside down when an international mafia syndicate, based in Australia, captures his two beloved elephants and smuggles them thousands of kilometers away to Sydney. The two elephants are far more than mere animals to Kham and his father. They are part of the family and were being prepared to be presented as a token of devotion to his Majesty the King of Thailand. The only way Kham can possibly save the animals is by venturing into a foreign land for the first time.

Taking on a mafia group to rescue two elephants from a foreign country presents a huge challenge, even for a martial arts master like Kham. Despite the help of Sergeant Mark (Phetthai Wongkhamlao), a Thai police Sergeant based in Australia, and Pla (Bongkod Kongmalai), a Thai girl forced into modern day slavery, the going gets tough. They must take on the ruthless gang of Madame Rose (Jin Xing), whose henchmen include Johnny (Tri Nguyen), a Vietnamese thief and martial arts expert, and the hulking TK (Nathan B Jones).

Kham has no choice but to risk his own life for the animals he loves…

Movie Review:

If you had thought that this film was straight out of National Geographic or Animal Planet, you would be forgiven. Tom-Yum-Goong opens with a father telling his son the history behind the Royal elephant guards. And soon, we learn about the existence of domesticated elephants in Thailand. We see elephants on the streets of a village and even participating in the Sonkhran water festival. We also see an elephant assisting the father at work and carrying the sleeping child on its tusks. In fact, all these go on for about twenty minutes or so and although you know that such a serene setting wouldn’t last long in an action film; you’d pause to think if it were a Disney movie. And oh, what does the Thai dish have to do with the title of the film? Urm…we’ll get to that later.

After the phenomenon that was Ong Bak, it was only a matter of time that Tony Jaa would be proclaimed as the next big action star in the mould of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan (keep a lookout for a look-a-like of the superstar). With such hype surrounding both Jaa and Tom-Yum-Goong, there are plenty of expectations to meet. With only his third film to date, the weight of the expectations is much heavier to bear with but this is an action flick afterall.

And, if you’re watching this for the action, the film lives up to its promise of that. Tony Jaa once again stuns and gets the heart racing as he punches and kicks his way through the villains. Kham (Tony Jaa) displays his Muay Thai skills which are inspired by his elephants. He uses this distinct set of skills to fight a capoeira-inspired fighter, a skilled Caucasian swordsman, extreme sports athletes and tall, burly men who are presumably weightlifters or wrestlers. There is an incredible scene towards the end when Kham battles a plethora of men in suits, similar to the one in Kill Bill Vol. 1. It takes place in a building of sorts (brothel, hotel, diner all rolled into one) across four storeys in one sweeping shot orchestrated by the breaking and cracking of numerous bones. The action culminates in the finale which involves the use of a whip and very big bones.

In all honesty, how many of us watch an action flick for its plot? Kham travels to Sydney in search of his two elephants which have been kidnapped by an international mafia syndicate. As the film progressed, it occurred that this plot served as the sole purpose of bringing Kham to Australia to fight with more Caucasian men. If other action flicks can have the most absurd of scientific concoctions that can destroy all of humankind, this film finds that it’s nothing wrong with having a baby elephant walking by the side of a Sydney bridge.

Tony Jaa has the potential to carry a film by himself without a lackluster supporting cast lagging far behind him. Petchai Wongkamlao who played Sergeant Mark of the Sydney Police Force was beyond irritating for most of the film that he could have been shot dead early on for all I care. Madam Rose, supposedly a transsexual in the film seemed more confused to be where he/she was as opposed to his/her sexual orientation. And if anything, Tom-Yum-Goong could have been spoken entirely in Thai and I would not have minded it. Instead, it chose to go with English, which was spoken in an extremely ludicrous manner. It made me ponder for a moment how Sergeant Mark could have become a Sergeant in Sydney and where have all the reporters disappeared too when all you get are English-speaking, Thai newscasters on the Sydney news.

Tom-Yum-Goong, in actuality is Thai prawn soup with lemongrass and its name alone is synonymous with the Thai culture. It is also known that the dish has a variety of flavours but is famously sour and spicy. With the exception of the restaurant in the film that has the same name as the dish, there isn’t really that much of a connection between the dish and the film. If the film had to be rated as the dish would, there is a probability it would be served with minimal prawns, lesser spice and mainly sour soup. The action in the film can stand on its own and it would be perfect as a dish of Tom-Yum-Goong fit for a king.

Movie Rating:

(Tom-Yum-Goong is mainly sour with a slightly spicy touch.)

Review by Mohamad Shaifulbahri

Talk about "Tom Yum Goong" in our forum!

DISCLAIMER: Images, Textual, Copyrights and trademarks for the film and related entertainment properties mentioned
herein are held by their respective owners and are solely for the promotional purposes of said properties.
All other logo and design Copyright©2004-2005, movieXclusive.com™
All Rights Reserved.