Chocolate is, as the title implies, the story of a sweet piece that gives people pleasure when they pop it in their mouth.
|On an unrelated note, image searches for this film rank this picture pretty highly|
|Much like the allure of her huge gang tattoo|
|"Would it be less creepy if I told you I was manipulating her?"|
|She brought a kick to the face to a jumping contest|
In my mind, any discussion of the acting and direction of Chocolate is missing the point. This is a movie about a mentally handicapped girl who --- as a direct result of being mentally handicapped --- became a master of the martial arts. It's essentially Rookie of the Year, only with "baseball" and "arm injury" being replaced by "kung fu" and "developmental disability." Let me put it another way: are you the sort of person who can laugh at The Crippled Masters? Or perhaps your favorite episode of South Park is the "Cripple Fight" episode?
|Hell is for children...to kick your ass|
If you can get beyond the basic idiocy/brilliance of the core concept of Chocolate, though, there are several points of interest. First and foremost, JeeJa Yanin is pretty damn impressive in the film's action scenes. The primary fight style is inspired by Muay Thai; if you can imagine a young girl kneeing people in the face, then you've got a decent idea of the action in the movie. Thanks to Zen's ability to mimic anything she sees, though, there are moments where the fighting style shifts noticeably.
|This scene was obviously inspired by Bruce Lee. No joke.|
The villains are also pretty entertaining. While I would hesitate to call any acting in the film "good," the bad guys were consistently nonsensical and over the top. Number 8 was the main baddie, but he wasn't all that weird. His transvestite second-in-command, though, was hilariously ugly. I would post a picture of him/her, but doing a Google image search for "chocolate movie transvestite" proved to be rather unpleasant. My favorite bad guys were the mini-bosses. The basic setup for any scene has Zen going to a group of meat/fish/pig/box packers and demanding the money owed to her mom, the bad guys laugh and refuse, and Zen kicks all their asses. One of the guys holding the money flat-out dared Zen to take the money from him; when she beats the shit out of everyone in the warehouse, the same guy whines about her overreacting. I had to pause the movie there until I was finished laughing.
Another thing Chocolate does well is introducing unintentionally funny conceptual moments. This doesn't include the core concept of kung-fu-autism, mind you. Let's take Zen's buddy, Mang Moom, as an example. I can ignore the logic of treating Zen as a street performer whose talent is to catch what you throw at her. I can ignore the shock of seeing his character (remember, he's a child) on the receiving end of a gunshot wound. Both of those are kind of unintentionally funny. Or terrible. Whatever. What was fantastic about his character, though, is when he is offered candy by the evil killer transvestite and is specifically told to give it to Zen --- and he does! Even better, the candy is poisoned! There is just so much gold in that simple idea, I just don't know what to do with it all! First and foremost, giving a fat kid chocolate candy and expecting him not to eat it, especially if nobody else knows about it, is a pretty terrible start to any evil plan. But what kid takes candy from a stranger...and saves it for someone else?!? It's not like Zen would have known anything was missing, because she's shown as nearly oblivious to everything. Also, if you're a creepy killer trannie, you might want to have a middle man offer the kid the candy in the first place; kids are stupid, but even they keep their distance from obviously creepy folk. Unless, of course, they happen to be named Mang Moom.
|Please tell me she's practicing this move for Moom|
Prachya Pinkaew did a decent job balancing the action and story in Chocolate. There are rarely stretches without action of some kind, and I think that is the best way to make a movie like this. The action choreography was varied and impressive, but it wasn't fantastic. Beautiful? Yes. Worth rewinding immediately after seeing? Not so much. The problem isn't with JeeJa Yanin, who looked about as tough as a teenage Asian girl can look. The scenes were just not gory. This is a martial arts movie where the main hero fails to kill most of her foes. They're using all sorts of weapons, but she just beats them down and then makes the rounds to make sure nobody is getting back up. In theory, there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it might have been downright unsettling to see Yanin massacring people on the big screen. And yet the lack of awesome (or any) finishing moves undermines one of the main pleasures found in martial arts movies.
Don't get me wrong, this can be an entertaining movie, as evidenced by the above clip. The action is pretty cool and there is the added bonus of another mentally-handicapped-but-violently-blessed character to add another layer to Chocolate's ridiculousness. It's fun and totally worth watching, but it's not bad-ass and it's not a classic. Unless, as I've pointed out before, you're going to Hell and you want to laugh on your way down. As a legit film, Chocolate deserves...
But if you're in the mood to laugh at a modern martial arts movie that actually has solid action, this deserves a Lefty Gold rating of...