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FILM REVIEWS : Tony Jaa's career takes a beating : On August 24, 2005

Tom Yum Goong

Cast: Tony Jaa (Phanom Yeerum), Mum Jokmok (Petchthai Wongkamlao); Bongkote Kongmalai, Jing Xing

Director: Prachya Pinkaew

Running time: One hour, 50 minutes

Hanuman rating: hhh

Tom Yum Goong" is neither hot nor spicy, but flat, and may give viewers expecting a tasty treat a bit of indigestion. "Ong Bak" fans who've waited two years for Phanom Yeerum - now known to the world as Tony Jaa - to show off more of his Thai boxing skills will discover why the follow-up took so long to finish.

While some of the fight scenes are outright fabulous, the acting is largely awful and the script is flimsy and shallow.

The problems are thus unfixable, especially for the poor chaps in the editing room. The movie is so badly filmed it would need a major rework. No amount of surgery could patch up the current takes.

For all his agility, Jaa has brought out a clumsy film. Film editors can only do so much - they can't perform miracles.

Director Prachya Pinkaew, who did much better with "Ong Bak", appears lost when managing an overseas cast - Australia was among the locations used.

Language skills are certainly not his forte. The English TV-broadcast scenes come off sounding comical and awkward.

While Chinese ballet personality Jing Xing looks the part of the fiendish transsexual who murders a family to seize gangland power in Sydney's Chinatown, her character is so one-dimensional that it's hard not to yawn.

The acting is particularly dreadful, and Jaa's inability to interact with his fellow cast members is a handicap. His verbal exchange with Bongkote Kongmalai is so uneasy it's been almost totally chopped out.

The only good actor, Mum Jokmok (aka Petchthai Wongkamlao), though a fine comedian, fails to save the movie from taking a dive after the first 10 minutes.

Indeed, it opens with promise, with the bad guys - dressed in the white jackets so popular among politicians, especially at Thai Rak Thai gatherings - stealing a baby elephant that belongs to our hero.

As Jaa journeys to Sydney to recover his property, the film goes awry. The fight scene in which he faces rollerskating punks and bikers is a riot, with the gang members using fluorescent light tubes to clobber him!

When the fragile tubes break without doing much damage, you have to wonder whether somebody has been inhaling funny substances.

Not even chief bad guys get their just desserts. The notorious "Johnny" (played by Johnny Nguyen), who runs the vice-packed Tom Yum Goong restaurant, exits the picture without so much as a wound.

Also, you'll be lost trying to understand the weird flashbacks, with elephants and ancient warriors in scenes that don't make sense.

The next time Tony Jaa wants to do a movie, he must seek more professional help.

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