In the first big martial-arts sequence in Raging Phoenix, it’s the athletic Kazu who fends off a gang of guys on blade-equipped pogo-stilts. Let that last sentence really sink in before you continue on with this review. This movie is very unique and will surprise the hell out of you. Following her debut as a mute kickboxer in 2008 hit ‘Chocolate‘, pint-sized Thai dynamo Yanin Visimitananda proves she can handle dialogue as well as fists and feet. She combines new stunning martial art styles and love story to be the ultimate action-romance film. The unique twist is this film is a hybrid of fighting and hip hop dancing. Of course we all know the formula to movies like this; paper thin plot that leads from elaborate fight scene to elaborate fight scene. And there’s definitely no reason to complain about that.
One day her life changes completely when some gangsters try to kidnap her and she narrowly escapes with the help of Sanim, a sad looking stranger with a painful past. Sanim and his friends, having had loved ones abducted, have joined together to break the gang of kidnappers. She finds a warehouse where a load of abducted girls are being kept, and unleashes the fury of her drunken hip-hop martial arts. Jeeja’s character convincingly embraces the art and gives us something awesome to marvel at in every frame.
The angle for Raging Phoenix is that the director and choreographer have come up with an original form of combat by combining breakdancing with Muay Thai with lots of alcoholic consumption. This decision takes out a lot of energy out of the movie, leaving audiences with a martial arts flick that is enjoyable in patches only. Credit for keeping a pretty silly premise alive goes to the appealing cast, which I enjoyed quite a bit.
In spite of the decent cinematography and plenty breath-taking backdrops, all of the carefully choreographed fight action is bogged down by an uncomfortable packaging that tries to cover romance. Things do pick up in the final 30 minutes, when the good guys finally discover the hidden lair of the baddies. Then before you know it, the film comes to a close and you’re left wanting more. Let’s hope Jeeja Yanin’s next project is much more fluid and will bring her into Hollywood mainstream because this Thai chicks talent is more marketable than Tony Jaa and his Ong Bak series, if you ask me.