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Kick, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Delivers what it promises, again and again."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "The Kick" is frickin' truth in advertising, living up to its title in every way it can. Not only does it feature more or less non-stop martial arts action, but it's a kick - light, pure fun that revels in its simplicity, giving the audience what it wants in fine style, even (and especially) when it's nutty.

There's this ancient Thai ceremonial dagger, the "Kris of Kings", about to go on display in Bangkok, and Seok-du (Lee Kwan-hun) wants it. His first attempt to steal it is thwarted when he accidentally crosses paths with the Moon family - not only does the father (Cho Jae-hyun) run a taekwondo studio, but mother Mija (Ye Ji-won), teenage son Tae-yang (Na Tae-joo) & daughter Tae-mi (Kim Kyung-suk), and younger son Typhoon are skilled as well. His first attempt at revenge has the parents send the kids out to the country with friend & manager Mum (Petchtai Wongkamlao), where they meet his niece Wawa (Jeeja Yanin), who has of course been studying muay thai since she was six. Tae-yang is upset because this could make him miss his final audition for a dance competition (guess what dad thinks about that), but more importantly, Seok-du is a persistent SOB.

So there will be fights. There will be sparring between family members and friends, evenly-matched brawls between the Moons and Seok-du's goons, crazy scenes where one good guy takes on a fair-sized gang, and of course boss battles where Seok-du or his top guard (Kim Yi-roo) take on all comers. You want action? You get it, with enough flying fists and feet in a variety of permutations to give everybody in a large cast a chance to show their stuff.

And it's good action - grade-A stuff, actually. Director Prachya Pinkaew and writer/fight choreographer Panna Rittikrai are Thailand's top team - between them, they've done the Ong Bak films, Tom Yum Goong, Chocolate, and many others. They serve action up right - in distinctive environments with obstacles that the audience immediately recognizes as dangerous and cool. The camera is steady and at the right distance so that the audience can admire the skill and athleticism of the performers, with slo-mo and instant replay for special "that's gotta hurt!" moments. It looks like fighting rather than dancing (except, of course, when it's also dancing), but as fun as it is painful.

Also fun: Watching the moons and company between fights. There's not a lot of time for family drama - just the thing with Tae-yang wanting to dance contrary to his father's wishes - but that's enough, especially when there's a fun shared stubbornness and desire to take no crap among all the family members, exaggerated just as you might expect from a family of martial artists. They've got a real family chemistry in the way that they bicker and support each other. The rest of the cast is pretty decent, too - Jeeja Yanin is mostly there to fight, admittedly, but she and the bad guys there for the same purpose at least have presence (a nicely smarmy one for Lee Kwan-hun). Petchtai Wongkamlao, who seems to pop up as comic relief in every Thai action movie, is genuinely funny here rather than just mugging for the camera.

The rest of the movie is unusually well-done, story-wise. The gags are set up and executed as well as the fights, and the movie pays off it's clunky "we showed you this earlier so it's got to be important" foreshadowing in hilarious, almost self-aware style.

In a just international film industry, movies like "The Kick" would open wide all over the world in 35mm and make a crap-ton of money for being nothing but fun and doing it with style. In reality, this will probably play a few midnight screenings in North America and then sneak out on DVD years after playing well in Asia. Be at those midnights and own that DVD, because this movie really is a kick.

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originally posted: 07/30/12 15:40:01
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2012 series, click here.

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  N/A (PG-13)
  DVD: 02-Apr-2013



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