REVIEW: DVD Release: Force Of Five

Film: Force Of Five
Release date: 5th July 2010
Certificate: 15
Running time: 110 mins
Director: Krissanapong Rachata
Starring: Nantawooti Boonrapsap, Sasisa Jindamanee, Pimchanok Leuwisetpaiboon, Richard William Lord, Johnny Nguyen
Genre: Martial Arts/Action
Studio: Cine Asia
Format: DVD & Blu-ray
Country: Thailand

From the producers of Ong Bak, Ong Bak 2 and Warrior King comes Force Of Five, a vehicle for the ‘new generation’ of Thai martial arts heroes.

Force Of Five is the story of five Thai children, the youngest of the which, Wun, has a heart condition and is awaiting a transplant.

When Wun gets sick, he is lucky that a donor is ready and prepared for a transplant, but disaster strikes in the form of a terrorist organisation who take over the hospital where the donor heart is being dispatched from.

The remaining four teenagers, including Wun’s older brother Wut, take it upon themselves to infiltrate the hospital, get past the terrorists and retrieve the donor heart before the transplant window closes. Not that these are any run of the mill, ordinary children. Wun, Kat and Pong all live in a Muay Thai boxing school and are raised by their ’Teacher’. Jib makes up the team despite running with a rival gang, but she is also well versed in the martial arts…

There is no denying the pedigree behind Force Of Five. Krissanapong Rachata may be a first time director but co-writer Napalee has a Warrior King writing credit and producers Panna Rittikrai (Ong Bak, Warrior King, Ong Bak: The Beginning) and Prachya Pinkaew (Ong Bak, Warrior King) have a proven track record, which is evident in the look and feel throughout Force Of Five.

The action sequences are shot with high speed accuracy, and some of the timing in the slow motion sections is joyous. The teenage stars bounce around like Yoda on speed, and there are Tony Jaa-style flying knees, elbows to heads, synchronized somersaults and all manner of teenage kicks, punches and flips. It is in these action set pieces that using such a young cast works so well because the lightweight actors can really connect with their opponents without actually hurting the object of their fury. As a plot device, it also means the fights last longer because it is more difficult for the teenagers to dispatch their larger, heavier, grown-up opponents. The fight between Wun, Kat and the leader of the terrorists shot in a narrow hospital corridor is especially successful due to the unusual height/weight disparity.

Unfortunately, the fights scenes are the high point of the film, and for all that they are wonderfully choreographed and skilfully executed, they lack the physicality and danger apparent in Tony Jaa films. The children are willing exponents, and there are a few genuinely thrilling moments, but tonally the film veers wildly from drama to comedy, and although this is not unusual within the genre, the fact the main protagonists are children makes the changes more glaring.

The acting is also wildly inconsistent, and Force Of Five has a genuine claim at containing the most badly acted drunk scene in celluloid history. The children, for the most part, are decent but some of the peripheral characters are just awful.

The storyline and script add to the inconsistency, as adult themes and an impressive body count are racked up, yet this is a film about children, and the tension between subject matter and character feels unresolved throughout. There are moments of high emotion, and a surprise twist near the end, highlighting the talent involved but also that the potential is disappointedly never realised.

Throughout Force Of Five, it is hard not to shake the feeling that we are watching a film pitched as a franchise starter, or even a TV series pilot, and under those circumstances Force Of Five might work. Herein lies the problem; how do you make a successful action film for adults were the main characters are children? I can think of plenty of films aimed at children that adults can enjoy, but Force Of Five is a certificate 15, so clearly aimed squarely at the teenage and adult kung fu market.

If you enjoyed the style of Ong Bak and the Warrior King then you will enjoy the fight scenes but the comedy is too broad, the themes too adult, the violence too severe, and the acting too inconsistent to make Force Of Five a true success. SM

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