BLOG: YTC Episode 41: 99p Challenge Too (2)

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

The YTC podcast can be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

FINAL.2.2

Remember in that sixth series of Big Brother when someone ate a live goldfish out of another person’s crotch? Or how about that amazing episode of Call Centre when a bomb threat was called in but it was actually Anthrax that was released? Or in Jersey Shore when the gang signed up to go fight Al Queada but got assassinated en route? Well no, me neither. Probably since I made all that up. Although it could have happened and I just don’t know about it. You see, I don’t watch much ‘Reality TV’.

Sure, I sometimes sit back and laugh at suckers paying a fortune for an item in Storage Wars and then finding it to be worthless. I occasionally marvel at the sheer portion-size in Man Vs Food. Heck, I’ve even suffered a minute’s worth of Made In Chelsea just to see what the hell a ‘Binky’ is.

This is a ‘Binky’, apparently
But to my tastes, Reality TV comes off as far too false, forced and exploitative to be fun- and I watch Professional Wrestling, people!
But as bad as terrible and tasteless as I find Reality Shows to be, they could be far worse (or better, depending on your perspective of entertainment vs human rights). You see, Reality TV could devolve into a dramatised way to film ordinary people to stalk and kill one another. In fact, back in 2001 someone was already thinking about this same concept…

Series7poster.jpgSeries 7: The Contenders was a film that I initially saw at an Arthouse Cinema when it was released in 2002. Having enjoyed it at the time, I was pleased to find it more recently for the princely sum of £1 in a second-hand DVD store.Given I just began the 99p challenge in my last blog entry, i decided the extar 1p counts as close-enough. So Series 7: The Contenders is the second feature film to meet the 99p-£1 challenge.

Of course this also means that I am violating my own rule about only picking unfamiliar films, but hey I’ve drunk a lot since 2002 and been on meds a few times. So I’m stretching my own rule due to my puny brain, and I can live with that compromise.

So, does Series 7′ hold up 12 years later? Well, interestingly watching the movie again a decade on, it now actually holds up better in some ways and worse in others.

 

Parental advisory logo

The film opens with a standard television warning that ‘Due to the graphic nature of this program, viewer discretion is advised’. Then only a few seconds later a pregnant woman shoots a man to death. Well, they did warn viewers.

The film pretends to be a marathon airing of an entire season of an American Reality TV show called The Contenders. This conceit is that an American town seems to be selected at random and that all the citizens have numbers within that town assigned to them. If their number is drawn in a special lottery then they are entered into the aforementioned TV show as ‘contenders’.

As contenders, each person is now a part of a documentary/game show. This pretty much amounts to being filmed 24/7 whilst you hunt and kill the other contestants whilst avoiding them killing you first. The only prize in winning this game is a greater appreciation for life if you win, aka survive.

Unfortunately winning also means you get enrolled into the next season, so it’s not necessarily a prize long savoured…

Evil TV!

 

The satire of trash TV is easily the biggest part of the Series 7: The Contenders and this is evident right from the offset. Not just in the concept itself but also in its execution. The techniques used throughout the movie mirror those of 1990’s when programs such as Cops were all the rage. So to the movie replicates these sorts of shows use of lots of cameramen running, Dutch Angles, crash zooms and a deep, over the top dramatic voice over that deliver constant tag lines such as;

These cats … don’t have … nine lives!”

 

Pretty soon we meet the contestants in this marathon screening of the seventh season. True to any ‘real’ television show, they are a wonderful mix of types, and two of whom have a secret history. Cue the drama created by mixing a suburban dad who was once a Marine, a sweet old Catholic nurse who does not believe in murder, an hobo-looking conspiracy nut, a teenage girl from a wealthy, WASPY family, a male cancer patient keen to die and the pregnant lady from the opening scene of the movie.

series-7-contenders-2001-list
The List of Contenders

Each contestant gets their own camera crew to follow them around, so the audience slowly uncovers more about them. However, much like in any TV series or film, even this fake reality show clearly has a split between a main cast and a supporting cast. Series 7’ mainly follows the pregnant Dawn, the married, cancerous and bitter Jeff and the Catholic Connie. The rest of the contestants are essentially cannon fodder along the way.

Never anger a pregnant lady

Dawn is the reigning champ and is arriving for this next series, series seven. Coincidentally this is also Dawn’s home town. Even more co-incidentally, Jeff is her ex-boyfriend. The film follows the two as they slowly reveal their linked back story over melodramatic piano songs in the background.

A great moment of this shared history between Dane and Jeff is that they met in Art Class at high school. So the film cuts in footage from their Avant Garde video projects from their art class. Wonderfully it’s pit to Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” for the final touch. This small send up pokes an affectionate finger of fun at Goths-Alt kids, film students, and pretentious art students (All of which someone writing a film blog may well know all too well. It may even cut a tad too close to home!).

Spaced

“Yes, but is it art?”

As Series 7′ plays out, Dawn and Jeff vary between trying to kill one another to reuniting, as Jeff leaves his wife. Meanwhile the films other lead, Connie, is shown praying and discussing the value of human life as both a Catholic and a Nurse. This is whilst Connie is simultaneously presented as the most tactical and efficient killer of the whole show!

Connie is very much representative of various hypocrisies. Both her religion and her vocation serve to undercut her actions. Yet Connie is perhaps even more representative of hypocrisy in a specific-cultural sense.

Given that Series 7: The Contenders is parodying American TV culture and the desensitising of viewers as whole then, it stands to reason that Connie is representative of any person that condemns an ‘evil’ in society except for when it actually benefits them.

Furthermore Connie discusses having watched the past seasons of The Contenders TV show. Her own denouncement of violence on the surface, whilst reveling in watching it from the comfort of her own home, is apt for anyone watching any action packed reality TV. Of course it is also a condemnation of to anyone watching the film of Series 7: The Contenders itself.

She’s gonna blow!

As the movie plays out, more contestants become eliminated, including the great concept that concept that the conspiracy nut participant (who had singled out the show as fake) mysteriously died via ‘stabbing himself in the back’.

Cannon fodder aside though, the story primarily focuses on Dawn as she goes in to labour. After giving birth in the same hospital that Jeff is being treated for cancer and shockingly in which Connie works, the ‘show’s’ producers kidnap Dawn’s newborn for its own safety.

Jeff and Dawn reunite and refuse to play The Contenders any longer. They use their weapons to kidnap their cameramen and then take a nearby cinema hostage. This action causes a Producer from the show to finally appear on screen, played by Lego The Movie’s VIP Batman voice, Will Arnett

Bluth clues: Actor Will Arnett said the Arrested Development cast is in talks to shoot more episodes for Netflix on Monday as he promoted his new show The Millers at the Beverly Hilton Hotel
“I’m Batmaaaaannnn”

In an ending that is both clever and a little unsatisfying, Jeff and Dawn demand the return of the baby and their freedom from the TV show or else they will shoot the producer. Armed guards appear at the edge of the screen and suddenly the footage cuts to a ‘recreated scene featuring doubles’.

Aided by the Over the top Narrative voice over, the recreated footage states that Jeff’s estranged wife sneaks into the cinema and kills Dawn in a jealous rage. Jeff then shoots his wife, before turning the gun on himself in depression.

Jeff had yet to master hostage negotiations

The reconstructed finale is an explanation that is so overtly fake, even within a film that is itself fictional, that the whole of The Contenders show is shown to be as constructed and heartless as possible. Dawn and Jeff are clearly ‘taken out’ by the Production company. The Contenders show makes its own dramatic ending, lies to its viewers and moves on to Series 8. Logically this is great Added to the level of coincidences in the Lottery selections et al, the film sets out to satirize the constructed nature of Reality TV as a whole.

As a viewer of the movie it is admittedly a little dull to see the protagonists of Dawn and Jeff disappear from the movie in an instant. Still, this is a necessary disappointment of an ending is completely fitting to the movie. Any Series 7: The Contenders viewers should feel a little cheated, to replicate the manipulation of the imaginary viewers of The Contenders show.

 Series 7: The Contender is a lot of fun to watch. Low budget but clever, in some ways it was way ahead of the curve on its mocking of Reality Television. Since its release the medium seems to have grown in more bizarre and manipulative ways over series such as Shipwrecked, Survivor and I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!

Perversely though, for a film looking ahead to where Television was starting to head, the movie has also has dated a quite a lot. The technology used to track the characters, ie black and white CCTV or giant Video Cassette-loaded camcorders, make it hard not to also view Series 7 as outdated.

Lights… Camera… Drip!

Still, for a fun movie that turned out to be even more relevant than the first time I saw it over a decade ago, Series 7: The Contenders was a great watch. Especially for £1.

2-0 to the 99p(ish) Challenge!

Next Time something completely different. Get ready to brawl!

 

Thanks for reading,

-MJ

BLOG: YTC Episode 40: 99p Challenge #1

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

The YTC podcast can be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

FINAL.2.2

Sometime back I found myself wandering the local 99p shop. Some of you may prefer a Poundshop, but they’re for indulgent fools. For the simple, Working Class likes of myself it is 99p shops all the way.

As I browsed the store witha golden nugget of shrapnel in my pocket, I was drawn to the the DVD and Blu-Ray shelf. I was actually a bit taken aback that they stocked 99p Blu-Rays, but I realised they were all bad stand up from the previous year so that made some sense after all.Current Jim Davidson DVD’s are hardly a bargain at the best of times, but at 99p the older ones seemed even more over priced.

The DVD shelf was a bit more exciting though. This shelf was a true mix of the famous and the unknown. Cult classics such as Halloween III:Season of The Witch (http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/hollyweird/hollyweird-episode-xxvii-seasons-greetings/) sat alongside Hollywood releases such as Terminator: Salvation, which in turn cosied up to well regarded foreign fare such as John Woo’s Red Cliff, which had it’s proverbial arm around various cheap looking kickboxing films. Add in MMA tournaments, weight loss routines and MTV Reality Shows, and this was a real mish-mash of releases. This DVD shelf seemed akin to a hostel for shiny discs, where various representatives across many nations can be seen hanging around one another, each hoping to escape ASAP.

Suddenly, inspiration struck!

At this moment I decided that for this very blog I was going to make some purchases. Somewhere nestled amongst all the unknowns, the never-seen and the best-ignored must rest at least one good film.Thusly the 99p Challenge was born!

Here on in I will occasionally purchase a 99p movie I have never seen, and ideally never heard of, then write my thoughts after watching it. Fittingly 99p seems to be about the right price for what my thoughts are probably worth.

So here is Exhibit A-. Selected purely for the snazzy use of ‘$’ in its title, I present $la$her$!

$la$her$ has a simple enough premise, and actually a pretty fun one. A Japanese television show has become the Number 1 TV show globally. This show is ‘Slashers’, a game show whereby six contestants enter a strange maze filled with three Slasher-type villains. If they can defeat the Slashers then they get a few Million in prize money. If not , then they end up a pile of blood and viscose on the studio floor.

As this film opens, the Japanese show is branching out into North America. This is the first Cross over episode and features a mix of assorted Yanks after fame, money, glory or thrills.

This opening is very much a mix of Battle Royal and The Running Man– it establishes the rules of the show which in effect sets up the entire conceit of the movie. As if both of the above examples were mixed, here this ‘introduction’ is done in a J-Pop, overly enthusiastic and showbiz way. Filled with energy, gaudy costumes and a hollow centre this fake game show is pretty darn close to real game shows.

Snog, Marry or Avoid?

The first, absolutely inescapable aspect of $la$her$ that will be evident to any viewer is the low budget. In actuality, ‘low budget’ does not really do the visuals justice. To paraphrase a Gorrillaz song, the budget may have in fact been “lower than Atlantis”.
I am tempted to say ‘hey, forget how cheap it looks!’ Even if $la$her$ cannot afford the costumes, scenery or background extras that the script demands, the film makers still got something on film. I can respect that. Since the movie ended up in a bargain basement situation, any criticism over its visuals seems mean. But in this case it is actually highly relevant. With terrible lighting, sets, make-up and effects, any poorly presented slasher film very quickly becomes a pantomime.

Do you need a silencer to shoot a mime…?

Anyway, back to the film. The contestants enter the ‘arena’ which is a warehouse set designed to shift around both geographically and in styles. So the participants may walk into a castle one moment, then turn a corner and be in a funhouse. Or they may staay in one spot inside a room, and suddenly find new doors appearing to render them vulnerable. In theory this is great. It means that variety is nigh. In reality, the film mainly uses a warehouse with a couple of garden sheds and some sand on the floor. There’s that damn budget again…

Stalking the contestants are the three most successful slashers from the TV show; Chainsaw Charlie, Preacherman and Dr. Ripper. Part of me had hoped the film would feature parodies of infamous slashers. For instance perhaps a ‘Teddy Krueger’ with a sweater and razor fingers would turn up, or maybe a ‘Sugarman’, a an intimidating black man with a hook for a hand, or even ‘Mason Vorhees’, a retarded killer who wears a Cricket helmet. No such luck. Instead, the film makers put their own slashers into the fray. Although admirably creative, I was personally disappointed not to get bargain basement knock-off’s of famous slashers. Oh well.

The slashers actually featured in $la$her$ caused a little guffawing from me. This is not the film makers fault, though. Of the three slashers, two have unfortunate associations. First up is Chainsaw Charlie. ‘Charlie is presented as an inbred, redneck sort of fella with a ‘saw. Not too far off of Leatherface I guess, but he could not be taken seriously.

$la$her$’ Chainsaw Charlie vs…

 

You see, unfortunately there was also a wrestler in the 1990’s played by legendary grappler, Terry Funk. Terry Funk also went by the moniker Chainsaw Charlie- and he wore pantihose on his head.

… A Funkin’ ridiculous Chainsaw Charlie

Not helping things is that this Chainsaw Charlie’s actual Chainsaw is static. The noise of a whirring blade is heard, but it does not actually move. Yeesh.

Next up is the second slasher, Preacher Man. He is a religious stalker out to punish sinners. Once more, fair enough in principal.

$la$her$’ Preacher Man vs…

But in one of my favourite real TV shows, Nathan Barley, ‘Preacher Man’ ends up the alias of protagonist Dan Ashcroft. Ashcroft ends up a reluctant spokesperson for Hoxton hipsters and goes a little nuts in his new role.

"Preacher Man!"
“Preacher Man!”

With two slashers instantly causing eye rolling, this left the third man, Dr. Ripper to be a credible bad guy. Dr. Ripper is a Surgeon with a perchance for unnecessary surgery and boobs. Seriously. Every time that Dr. Ripper corners a girl he takes their tops off- admirably, they almost always cover up and run off, even when their lives are in danger.

Actually, this ‘need for boobs’ is actually done in a reasonably smart way. Seriously! The entirety of $la$her$ runtime features a self-awareness of the genre that actually impacts on the plot.

Cover girl covers up

So for instance, the Contestants do not initially want to talk to one another. They want to focus on their own survival. But they are informed by the camera man that anything that lets the audience ‘know their back story’ could help them last longer. So those who say nothing are boring and dispatched with, whilst those with sob stories are not picked off so quickly.A bit like a Simon Cowell show but with blades. Similarly, the girls are expected to show boobs- hence Dr. Ripper’s actions. Boobs= popularity= survival.

Surprisingly I expected $la$her$ to mine this as an excuse for lots of exploitation shots of semi-naked women. Refreshingly, the female characters refuse as this notion as disgusting. Admittedly there is one topless moment, but it is designed to be pretty un-sexy as it features a girl screaming and upset. Though any moral stance would be far stronger with no breasts on display, cleavage is a big part of the horror genre. So just to play devil’s advocate, there is arguably some justification for both featuring boobs and and covering them in the same film.

This self-realisation of the horror-genre-within-a-TV-show actually branches into some clever areas within all of $la$her$.

The Contestants note that there is only one cameraman filming them as a part of the game show. So clearly no murder will happen off-screen as it is unfair to TV viewers. So they can split up, but whoever gets the Camera man following them is going to be picked off. To quote one character whilst he looks down the lens, “If this motherfucker’s nearby you’re in trouble!”.

Likewise, the music in $la$her$ is not just initially a background score. The film is silent unless a slasher is nearby. The Contestants use this to know when something is up- so if the music cues they decide to start running! The music is awful Euro-Techno though, which really hurts the brain rather than raises the pulse rate. Handily it stops being used quite so much though as one character eventually points out that “Music stopping doesn’t mean anything. It could be to scare us- or they just missed their cues”.

Small considerations such as the camera man’s presence or the use of music do give $la$her$ a sense of intelligence to the script. Obviously the film is still fantastical, but it does ground the piece in a way that helps poke fun at both horror and Found Footage films in a way reminiscent of Scream. This self-analysis is something that allows the film makers to have their cake and eat it. Unlike Scream though, $la$her$ does not mix comedy, genre commentary and scares quite so well.

Anyone can do a Scream image. This is more meta than meta!

For one thing, the aforementioned terrible aesthetics ruin any chance of scares. Seeing someone in a bad rubber mask, against a barely disguised warehouse backdrop and well lit is not terrifying. It is like walking into a poor cosplay photo shoot. A bigger issue is the acting though.

Everyone is awful. Everyone. Utterly, utterly awful. Lead Sarah Joslyn Crowder mistakes gritting her teeth and sounding upset for being scared. The director should probably have pointed this out to her early on as unfortunately she does it for the entire movie. All of it. All. Of. It.

Dr. Ripper is somehow even more grating. Playing the role like the Joker is one thing, but if you have to enunciate every part of every pun and looks as scary as a substitute-Geography teacher, then the role screams ‘Am Dram’ actor.

Behold the master of the grimace!

One vague exception is the actor playing Chainsaw Charlie. His redneck accent is so far over the top it initially seems just another component of poor acting. However during one interesting exchange this is somewhat explained away.

As with other self-acknowledging parts of $la$her$, Commercial breaks play a big part in the film. Each contestant wears a paralyzing- neck collar. Whenever a Slasher is about to strike, the ‘show’ cuts to commercial. The collar forces the contestants to stay in position whilst the Slasher waits for the all clear to slay them. This makes sense within the plot and is a nice dramatic touch. Although unable to run away, the contestants can still speak. As Chainsaw Charlie prepares to dice up a few people over an unsafe bridge, Charlie realises that he himself is in danger. Suddenly his accent drops and he says in a Californian voice that he is just doing his job and does not want to die. So at least his terrible redneck can be seen as a role-within-a-role.

Still, when the best acting is down to not being quite as bad as everyone else, it is faint praise.

Redneck Rampage; the good kind of redneck fun

A few nice script touches aside though, $la$her$ actually plays out over its run time as follows. 1) Run. 2) Talk. 3) Someone is slain. 4) A slasher gets taken out. 5) Repeat. Put simply; it’s dull.

The idea is fairly strong, but the execution is weak. Put in its own terms, $la$her$ was designed to be as innovative as low budget New Nightmare, but instead is reduced to being as difficult to enjoy as a Freddy’s Dead.

What has pleasantly surprised me from this first 99p Challenge is that the cheap, unknown movie of mystery actually did have its merits- at least for a blogger assessing a cheap DVD. I would not go so far as to recommend the movie to anyone due to any viewer having to sit through the cast’s performances, the music and the piss poor visuals.

Still, as a first time test the film did not make me wish I had never started this new scheme. I’m taking that as a (minor) win. Excelsior!

Next time it’s a Canadian reality show of a different ilk, one still filled with murder but where love will tear them apart…

Thanks for reading.

-MJ

BLOG: YTC Episode 39: Death by Chocolate

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

The YTC podcast can be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

FINAL.2.2

I’ve been away for a few weeks. Not physically, oh no. That costs cabbage. Instead I have just been away from this blog for an incredibly dull reason- the film I watched specifically for this latest post neither blew me away, bored me to the point of mockery nor is weird enough to astound. Although it certainly has all three of these aspects at times. Parts impressed me, parts bored me and the general concept is somewhat weird.

So I had to decide whether to write this entry or to abandon it for something else. Then like the protagonist, I decided to ride this scenario out and push onward! So today I give you.. Chocolate!

Chocolat_sheet

No, wait. Not that one.

This one- the one with an ‘e’ on the end.

 

Chocolate is a pretty simple tale that we have all heard a million times before; A Thai gangster’s moll meets Japanese Yakuza boss over a turf war. They fall in love, she falls pregnant. He is forced back to Japan, she gives birth. The baby is a little girl called Zen, and she is born autistic. The mother is disfigured by the Thai mobster and cut off from her Japanese lover. Forced into hiding, the Moll and Zen end up living next to a Taekwondo/Muay Thai kickboxing centre. Zen learns fluent Martial Arts through the superpower of Autism, mixed with watching the real life Thai-action flick, Ong Bak a few times.

Zen uses her fighting skills to get money owed to her mother from dodgy folks, so she can buy her mum expensive medicine. But when the Thai gangster finds out, he steps in and it all goes a bit pear-shaped… Oh and Zen likes to eat Candy, hence the title.

So like I wrote, clearly this is an age old tale of Thai gangsters, Autism, ladyboys, Taekwondo, the Yakuza and chocolate.

Everything Zen

[NB: I have only a passing knowledge of Taekwondo from B-Movies on VHS and Muay Thai from StreetFighter II, so if I have the disciplines wrong my apologies!]

sagat

In the movies ‘Positive Column’ the action is impressively staged. The physicality is impressive in many martial arts movies seems impressive to myself, possibly because I am a chubby writer with the co-ordination of an octopus in spasm, possibly because I appreciate other people being kicked in the face. But since Chocolate features a young teenage girl as the lead, this just seems all the more outstanding.

Honestly, there are a few times throughout Chocolate I felt bad for the henchmen due to their beatings at the hands of this skilled lady. Then I realised they were trying to kill a young girl and I enjoyed their pain. So mission accomplished for having impressive fight scenes, which is clearly a must for any action film. Lead actress JeeJa Yanin really does excel in all of these combat takes, seeming fluid and powerful beyond her years.

http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/world-autism-awareness-day
http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/world-autism-awareness-day

Tying into the ‘cheering’ of Zen in such fight scenes is the fact that the the core concept is a socially-positive one. Here a child with Special Needs is a heroic figure, albeit a very violent one. She is loving and supportive towards her family and tries to protect them. She is more capable than all the ‘normal’ opponents she comes across.

All of which is made clear with the opening title card which dedicates the film to the love of ‘special’ children all over the world. Although this may seem a little cloying in a cynical mindset, it is an undeniably upbeat approach to an action film.

“Excuse me, I had my foot there”

Finally, I like the overt references to the successful Thai movie, Ong Bak. Not only does Zen watch Ong-Bak to learn some moves, certain action scenes are presented in ways throughout Chocolate to resemble Ong Bak.

For instance, there are impactful fights in Ong-Bak where two characters are filmed with a static camera, on opposite sides of the screen. The hero, played by Tony Jaa, leaps across in slow motion and delivers a powerful, jaw-crunching blow to his opponents head. This is a skull-rattling shot that is hard to forget. Chocolate features this same shot too, although replacing an elbow with a knee in terms of limb-usage and delivered by JeeJa Yanin.

Damn man, dude’s about to Ong-Bak’d, yo!

 

Damn man, dude’s about to Ong-Bak’d, yo… Part 2!

Of course it is possible that the similar shot is just coincidence. After all, there is a limited amount of ways to shoot two characters fighting. Yet the fact the same Director, Prachya Pinkaew, is responsible for both films. Combined with Zen’s interest in Tony Jaa films implies this is a much more blatant connection. Personally I like this as it gives a wink to Ong-Bak which set the pace for Chocolate’s very existence.

 

Now, into the ‘Negative Column’. For any positive-laced concept of featuring an Autsistic lead, the same case can be made that the film is pure exploitation of the same condition. In one particularly poor taste scene, Zen has to combat her equal, the similarly addled Thomas.

In addition to this question of taste, Chocolate also has one larger, more unfortunate aspect from my viewing. Aside from the fight scenes, the whole thing is boring.

The acting is poor and the characters two-dimensional. So much so that sitting through any part that did involve high-ocataine action was a chore. Better known Marital Arts films such as The Raid show that stripped down characters can be fine if the film is so streamlined as to be one giant set piece.

“Put down your arms, this is a raid!”

Whereas in the opposite manner, something like the afore-mentioned Ong Bak focuses on the protagonists Buddhist nature to present a conflicted hero. Or even Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which spends a lot of time developing the inter-personal politics of its cast, and thus in turn enriching them all with more fleshed out parts that are played by solid leads.

Whoever smelt it dealt it

These are just three examples off the top of my head, but they already show that Martial Arts films from recent years can work in different ways. They can be stripped down, spiritual or more lingering. Chocolate though is somewhere in the middle of all these. It is not as simple as The Raid, nor as focused on its core concept as Ong-Bak, nor as developed as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Chocolate is indeed its own movie, so comparisons to different types of martial Arts films from other film makers in other countries and years are of course in some ways unfair. But the more soap-opera like performances that seemed to drag out the non-action scenes distracted from Chocolate’s potential so severely they need mentioning.

Action + Soap Opera = Wrestling!

If it had been as stripped down, centrally-focused or downright as rich as the above comparisons then Chocolate could have been a more satisfying movie. More so, it may have made more of its unique conceit and spread its message a little bit more powerfully. Zen is an interesting character portrayed by an excellent athlete. Yet if only the movie had been better on the whole, perhaps more people may know about Chocolate without mistaking it for the Johnny Depp-Juliette Binoche film, Chocolat.

 

Next time something new. A challenge if you will.

Thanks for reading,

-MJ.