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Saturday, August 1, 2009

DEMON WARRIORS -- DVD review by porfle

A supernatural action thriller that mixes bloody, bone-crushing fights and shoot-em-ups with some puzzling mysticism, Thailand's DEMON WARRIORS, aka Opapatika (2007), is a lot of sound and fury signifying something that I never could quite figure out.

The "Opapatika", or "demon warriors", are former humans who committed suicide and then, for some reason, were able to return to life as superior beings with special powers. A young human, Techit, seeks out an old Opapatika master named Sadok in order to get one of those reincarnation makeovers and is promptly instructed to blow his own brains out, which he does. Sadok tells the newly-risen Techit that since he was unusually intuitive in his former life, his Opapatika power is the ability to read minds. Unfortunately, every time he uses this sixth sense his other senses begin to fade one by one. Sadok's power isn't revealed to us at first, but we do discover that using it causes his body to decay a little at a time.

Sadok is seeking out other Opapatikas for some unknown reason and puts Techit on the trail, along with his super-badass human assistant, Thuwachit. The ones they're searching for are: Paison, a contract killer with unerring aim whose body takes on the wounds of his victims; Aruth, a gentle soul by day who turns into a kill-crazy psycho beast after sundown; Ramil, who can manifest his evil side into a seperate entity with a face only an exorcist could love; and Jiras, who considers his immortality a curse of endless suffering. Weaving her way through their lives is the mysterious Pran, a beautiful woman who becomes an object of great conflict among them all.

Thuwachit narrates the story and doles out exposition like a gum machine although I can't figure out what he's talking about half the time. But mainly he leads group after group of armed soldiers into furious battles with the Opapatika, with the hapless humans getting the ever-livin' crap kicked out of them every time. These guys must be getting paid a ton of money because they just keep getting slaughtered by the dozens in several nicely-staged battle sequences drenched in cartoonishly spewing blood and flying limbs.

One particularly lively setpiece features an encounter between the soldiers and the deadly Aruth in the inner courtyard of an apartment building as they take the fight up and down stairs and across various landings, with lots of leaping and shooting and all kinds of horrible deaths. Thuwachit and his doomed army fare no better against the pistol-packin' Paison, who streaks amongst them firing off one kill-shot after another and racking up a death count that should keep the local morticians busy for months to come.

But as frenetic and action-packed as these scenes are, their one-sided nature--the Opapatika are practically invulnerable to physical harm--renders them a bit tiresome after awhile. The same can be said for the fights between the demon warriors themselves, which are filled with gunfire, swordplay, and carnage, but seem somewhat pointless since these guys just can't seem to manage to kill each other.

In the downtime between all this violence, the movie screeches to a crawl. There are some interesting backstories, Paison's being particularly moving, and some nice artistically filmed scenes of Pran gliding elegantly around the house in her windblown gown and listlessly playing the piano as Aruth and Ramil gaze at her like lovesick puppies. Jiras warns them to stay away from her, apparently knowing something about her that we don't know. Characters either talk a lot about being trapped between reality and limbo or sit around thinking about it, and Thuwachit does some more narration for us, which he is wont to do.

The Pran situation eventually erupts into another big gunfight in her house between all the demon warriors, including Techit, who hasn't really done much up till then besides smoke cigarettes. (According to the synopsis, he's supposed to be a detective, but I never really got that impression.) The rapidly-deteriorating Sadok eventually shows up and reveals his connection to all this, including a surprising link to Pran, and we finally discover just how sinister his intentions are.

By the time we get to the last two or three prolonged battle scenes with the Opapatika mowing down soldiers like so many cans of tomato soup or having generally pointless fights with each other, I was looking forward to seeing them all finally start to friggin' die already. Making things even harder to endure is the fact that for some reason, director Thanakorn Pongsuwan suddenly eschews the perfectly good style that he's employed for the first two-thirds of the film and starts doing everything in highly-annoying Shaky-Cam. This detracts from the dramatic finale in which the story of Thuwachit (my favorite character since he's such a hardcore badass for a human) is resolved along with the insidious scheme of his master Sadok. At least we get to see some of these invulnerable bastards getting killed at last, which comes not a moment too soon since by now things have started to list perilously toward the boring side.

The DVD is in 1.78:1 widescreen with 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital sound. You can listen to it in the original Thai with English or Spanish subtitles, or in an English dub. Included as a bonus feature is a 15-minute "making of" featurette.

DEMON WARRIORS has cool makeup effects, stunningly violent and bloody action (complete with massive spew), and some very nice production design and cinematography. But aside from the exciting early fight scenes, the story tends to get exceedingly dry and the action becomes repetitive. I did like this movie to a certain extent and appreciate the effort put into it, but the fadeout came as a bit of a relief.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

I thought the film was totally engrossing beautiful and relentlessly brilliant.