Thursday, April 16, 2009

NAAK: Trans-Genre Thai Rojak

NAAK (action/romance)
Cast: Jesdaporn Pholdee, Ploy Jindachot, Passin Ruangvuth and Sakda Kaewbuadee
Director: Teerawat Rujeenatham
Time: 93 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

Ploy Jindachot, Passin Ruangvuth (left & centre) in NAAK

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? Perhaps Naak is what you get when you have a cameraman co-write and direct a movie. Teerawat Rujeenatham was the cinematographer of the thriller, In the Shadow Of The Naga, which was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2008. Using the same theme from the Naga (serpent) folklore, Teerawat blends the ancient human-serpent myth with modern jungle warfare, illegal scientific experiments and romance to come out with a cinematic 'rojak' called Naak.

This Thai trans-genre fantasy is also marketed as 'Deep In The Jungle', highlighting its love story.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Naak opens with flashbacks to a mythical past where a voice-over tells us that snake-god siblings, Jin and Jai, are destined to roam the earth until such a time when the nine planets align, whereupon they must return to their cave in the mountains and transform into giant serpents. (Or something like that).

Fast forward to modern day and we find an evil army general named Manus (Passin Ruangvuth) hot on the trail of Jin and Jai (played by Ploy Jindachot and Sakda Kaewbuadee, pic, right). Manus wants to capture Jin so that the people he works for can harness her supernatural power. However, Jin is not entirely helpless. She has a former Thai Special Forces agent in the form of Nawin (Jesdaporn Pholdee) to help and protect her...

HITS & MISSES: Sitting through the first 40 minutes of Naak is like being in an intellectual limbo. We don't know what is going on with all that shooting and fleeing in and around the jungles and slums of Thailand. Gradually, however, we learn that the handsome Manus is the villain and the tattooed Nawin is the hero who invariably falls in love with Jin (who could well pass for a zombie, given the way Ploy Jindachot portrays her).

However, the jigsaw pieces start falling into place when Nawin joins Jin at her tribe's hillside village - where we get the customary romantic interlude and comic relief. This is just before the big showdown involving man and mythical beast. As director, Teerawat is rather strong on visuals but lacking in narrative substance. Many of his scenes are extremely violent and disturbing. One massacre scene has soldiers brutally shooting and hacking innocent women and children.

The much-awaited monster sequence comes late in the movie and turns out disappointing. The effects are crude and the scene is too brief to be effective.

THE LOWDOWN: Naak, Naak! Who's there? - It's Naak, the Thai movie rojak.


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