Thai stunt master Panna Rittikrai has the tendency to impress fans with his brand of martial arts choreography and stunt work. While ONG BAK (2003) launched Tony Jaa and CHOCOLATE (2008) launched Jeeja Yanin, this action film he co-produced may be the launching pad for the next generation of his team. After all, the protagonists are all played by teenagers.
Raised in a Thai boxing school run by Master Lek (Arunya Pawilai), four teenagers and a pre-teen train in Muay Thai and at times, get themselves in trouble. Wut (Nantiwooti Boonrasap) is the eldest of the teens, doing his best to become a future kick boxer alongside Kat (Sasisa Jindamanee). Jib (Nawarat Techarathanaprasert) doesn’t practice much and instead, spends her time racing remote controlled cars. Then, there’s resident troublemaker Phong (Paytaai Wongkamlao), who always boasts about his father and gets not only himself, but the others in trouble.
The youngest of the five in Wun, Wut’s little brother, who has a heart condition and wishes to be like his big brother and spend more time with them outside of the school. When Wun receives a RC car for his birthday and races it the next day, he causes trouble with a local gang boss. While running away, Wun ends up having a heart attack and goes to the hospital. The kids and Master Lek learn that a young boy who passed away in another hospital has been able to donate his heart to Wun. Things, however, become chaotic when a band of terrorists take over the hospital where Wun’s new heart is located. Determined to help his brother, Wut leads the rest of the teens to the hospital in an attempt to get the heart to save Wun.
Directed by Krissanaporn Rachata, this latest film from producer Prachya Pinkaew and his Baa-Ram-Ewe film company with the assistance of Panna Rittikrai’s team is nothing short of a highlight reel for the next generation of stunt fighters. The film’s teen stars learned well from Rittkrai and his stunt team. While Rittikrai supervised the action himself, it is his longtime collaborator Banlu Srisaeng who took on the main choreography duties.
While two of the teen stars look very familiar, the lead actor, Nantiwooti Boonrasap, looks amazingly impressive and from the way he moves, it looks like Thailand may have found its next Tony Jaa or even Dan Chupong (star of Rittikrai’s 2004 film BORN TO FIGHT). When it comes to the story, Boonrasap displays some pretty good acting too as a brother determined to do anything to make sure his brother gets well. In the scene where he takes his brother to the hospital, Boonrasap displays such emotion that it is quite easy to show sympathy for him.
Boonrasap works well in the action department when he teams up with BORN TO FIGHT’s Sasisa Jindamanee, who has gone from a ten-year old junior Muay Thai champion to what could be the next Jeeja Yanin. After BORN TO FIGHT, Jindamanee continued her training with Rittikrai’s team, showcasing her skills in the recent action-comedy SOMTUM (2008) alongside Nawarat Techarathanaprasert, who co-stars in this film as race car expert Jib. Now at the age of fifteen, Jindamanee still shows that she hasn’t lost a step and does a great job in the action department.
The comic foil of the film comes in the form of the character of Phong, played by Paytaai Wongkamlao. If the last name looks familiar as well as his looks, it will come as no surprise. Wongkamlao is the real-life son of one of Thailand’s most beloved comic actors, Petchtai Wongkamlao. The elder is best known for his roles in ONG-BAK, THE BODYGUARD (2006) and THE BODYGUARD 2 (2007), and recently, a cameo in ONG-BAK 2 (2009). In fact, in the beginning of the film, Phong gets a letter from his dad and there are pictures of the elder Wongkamlao and Master Lek tells Phong that he does look exactly like his father. The younger Wongkamlao doesn’t fight much in the film like his fellow actors, but his comic relief is somewhat reminiscent of his father. He is definitely a chip off the old block.
The terrorists taking over the hospital have their own agenda as well. Known as the Teelaw, they are described as a minority in Thailand and go to extremes to get equal rights among the people of Thailand. Playing the lead terrorist in this film is Vietnamese-born martial arts actor and stuntman Johnny Nguyen. Coming off his first lead role in THE REBEL (2007), Nguyen had worked with Rittikrai’s team before, playing a villain in TOM YUM GOONG (aka THE PROTECTOR) (2005), opposite Tony Jaa. Nguyen doesn’t really shine action-wise until the climatic finale, where he pretty much unleashes his skills against the kids, notably Wut and Kat, who are obviously the best of the fighting teens.
Speaking of action, while fans love seeing Rittikrai’s style of action, here comes the only flaw of the film. The problem with the fight scenes is a little overdose of slow motion use and at times, the techniques seem too repetitive. The overuse of slow motion was also done in Rittikrai’s BORN TO FIGHT (2004). Overall, it does bring that style to good use coming from a young cast, yet the repetitiveness and slow motion overdose tends to be quite annoying after a while. Thankfully, the film only runs at approximately 75 minutes. Because of its running time, the first time seeing the moves repeated over and over again may seem annoying, but perhaps after a second viewing combined with the run time, it may end up being not too bad.
What can be pretty much described in a nutshell as 3 NINJAS meets DIE HARD, POWER KIDS is a decent effort from Pinkaew and Rittikrai. While it has somewhat of a decent storyline, it is like many other recent Thai action films, a highlight reel of stunts and martial arts action. However, we may have the next Tony Jaa and Jeeja Yanin in the forms of Nantiwooti Boonrasap and Sasisa Jindamanee. This is definitely worth at least a rental.REVIEW: Power Kids (2009),
hospital • Johnny Nguyen • Muay Thai • Nantiwooti Boonrasap • Power Kids (2009) • Sasisa Jindamanee • teenagers • terrorists • thailand