When it comes to most genre films, I can get lenient on my criteria for entertainment. Basically it all ultimately boils down to one question: did the movie deliver what it promised? In the case of Chocolate, Prachya Prinkaew’s follow-up to festival hit Ong Bak, the answer is a stone cold yes, maybe not a home run but still a solid hit. The promise, in this case, was that for my admission price I’d get an hour and a half of a cute autistic Thai girl with photographic reflexes muay thai-ing her way through the Bangkok underworld. Done.
I actually kind of prefer Chocolate to Ong Bak (it’s about neck and neck with Tom Yum Goong, though, as far as lack of downtime goes), mainly because I’m still not convinced Tony Jaa will develop the onscreen gravitas and charisma he’ll need for the long run, whereas JeeJa Yanin emerges in her starmaking vehicle fully formed: she’s got the comedy, drama and moves down pat. Plus this time there isn’t a cynical passing-the-torch scene like the one in Ong Bak where Jaa bumps into the world’s worst Jackie Chan impersonator at the airport and stares him down.
If I’d seen this movie when I was twenty and in full chop socky fanatic mode, it would have been my favorite movie ever. As it is, there’s nothing new but, as I said: the movie delivers. It’s not a classic, but anything that gets an entire audience screaming, cheering and clapping simultaneously at acrobatics and body blows has done its job. (***1/2)