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  Publicity Stills of "Muay Thai Chaiya"
(Courtesy from Cathay-Keris Films)

In Thai with English and Chinese Subtitles
Director: Kongkait Komesiri
Cast: Akara Amarttayakul, Sonthaya Chitmanee, Don Ferguson, Saengthong Gate-Uthong, Prawit Kittichantheera, Phreeta Kongpetch, Samart Payakarun, Thawatchai Phanpakdee
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: M18
Official Website: http://www.muaythaichaiyathemovie.com/

Opening Day: 1 November 2007


Pow grew up to become a great fighter in a small town fighting camp. Muay ChaiYa is his
pride but not appreciated by everyone around him, except his closest friends, Piek and
Samaw. One day, his long-lost father returns and trains the trio as the last group of fighters
to take on the best.

Movie Review:

Muay Thai, or Thai Kickboxing is known for its rather violent nature given its hard hitting techniques to defeat opponents. Best known for promoting the martial arts in the region lately will be the stylized movies starring Tony Jaa in Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong, where we see how Jaa dispatches opponents with ease, and suffering nary a scratch of injury.

Muay Thai Chaiya is the latest offering from Thai cinema that puts the martial arts in the forefront of the story. As the story goes, we are introduced to a variation of the Muay Thai art known as "Muay Thai Chaiya" (hence the title), where seemingly defensive moves and techniques have hidden offensive powers and attributes. Practioners seem to be taking in more blows than to dish out pain, but are actually waiting for the right moments for counter-attacks. There are some fanciful names with animal motifs as well, but through cursory mention, those names hardly stick.

What I thought was a stark departure when you have martial arts movies, is that Muay Thai Chaiya seemed to have dwelled on the negative aspects of the sport for the most parts. It doesn't contain the usual route of a hero undergoing tough training to become one of the best, meeting adversary and then overcoming it through transformation of character or attitude. It actually allowed for the characters here to journey to the dark side, what with drugs abuse, non-sportsmanship like behaviour in throwing matches, and something which seem to have plagued most sports in general, the punters and the shady underworld of sports betting, with undertable payoffs, and gangland politicking coupled with mob hits ordered in the unofficial bouts.

It's a mixed bag in its approach, that it couldn't decide what it wants to be, whether it wants to showcase and allow audiences to appreciate the distinct fighting moves, or to concentrate on sports corruption and become a typical Hong Kong triads movie, which it couldn't. What it did right however, was to contrast both the orthodox championship, against the rough and tumble of the underground matches, where sticking to form yields little returns, and the art form becomes a bastardized version of itself in a fight for survival.

The storyline too is pretty weak, with content very similarly weaved to the tune of Blood Brothers where three friends Piak (Akara Amarttayakul), Samor (Sonthaya Chitmanee) and Pao (Thawatchai Phanpakdee) decide to leave their country life for the lure of the bright lights in the big city in their quest for fame and fortune. Having a romance that's a template straight out of Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor thrown in ("Hello, Nurse Sriprai", played by Phreeta Kongpetch) doesn't help a bit too. There are just too many minor characters that don't really further the plot, like the bargirl (played by the Saengthong Gate-Uthong last seen in Wisit Sasanatieng's Citizen Dog), and its unfocused subplots had long overstayed their welcome in taking too long to be resolved, stretching the runtime to close to two hours unnecessarily. Suffering from the erratic pacing were key revelations that were tossed into the fray late into the movie, and by then, it doesn't make much of a difference as they couldn't add depth to the plot or to elicit emotions other than indifference from the audience.

With a very macho ring to its title, the end result was quite disapointing with its whimper like finish instead of delivering a signature killer move. It had that potential actually during its violent crescendo, but became dragged down too much by the albatross of melodramatic moments instead of keeping it short, sharp and tight.

Movie Rating:

(Unlike its martial arts philosophy, the movie's appeal comes too little too late.)

Review by Stefan Shih

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