April 26, 2016

The Kick: 75% Korean, 25% Thai

How do you like your martial arts served up on the big screen? Slapsticky a la Jackie Chan or unshticky per Jet Li? Should you favor the flavor of comedic kicks, then this Korean fight flick has your name punched right into it. You'll witness kitchen fights using pots, pans and a live squid; high wire battles in which a ceiling fan functions as a mechanical spanker; and debilitating destroyer dance-moves triggered by a monkey who activates inspirational music on a stray cellphone. Of course, there's a plot stringing together all these elaborate chopsocky routines. To wit:

Mom (Ye Ji-won) and Dad (Jo Jae-hyeon) run a taekwondo studio in Bangkok where their teenaged son (Na Tae-joo), who favors harem pants, gets into trouble when he foils the theft of an ancient sword (strangely devoid of supernatural powers). When the thieves — ruled by an easily scarred pretty boy — seek revenge and the high-priced weapon (value: $3 million), complications multiply. Bombs are strapped to bodies; people get trapped in overpopulated crocodile terrariums; a child named Typhoon is suspended mid-air.

Solutions are easy to come by though: A black eye is washed away in a waterfall and range-top gas can be inhaled then spewed out as a flame by putting a lighter in front of your mouth. Everyone knows martial arts here, even the elephants, and those who don't, like the family's beloved manager Uncle Mum (Petchtai Wongkamlao), learn so quickly they're soon teaching classes themselves. If that last actor's name looks decidedly un-Korean to you, that's because it's not. The Kick is a joint venture of the Korean and Thai film industries. That cross-cultural exchange extends behind the camera too as the director (Prachya Pinkaew) is Thai while the screenwriter (Lee Jong-suk) is Korean. The world needs more cultural hybrids like this. And more silly martial arts movies.

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