This is one of those movies that you really only watch for the fights. You know the type of film I’m talking about: the script’s written in a day or two, but they do months and months of prep on the stunt choreography. And that’s fine, particularly when the action turns out to be as awesome as it does in Raging Phoenix.
Why’s it called Raging Phoenix? I haven’t a clue. The plot concerns an evil gang who kidnap young women to be sold as sex slaves (and worse). When young Deu almost becomes their next victim, she’s saved by a trio of – OH MY GOD CHINESE DRUNKEN FIST VERSUS DRUNKEN MUAY THAI!!!!!
As I said, the plot means little when you’ve got fighting as tremendous as this. The majority of the action seems to be a version of Muay Thai/Capoeira/breakdancing and is wonderfully ridiculous. Fighters leap and spin through the air, feet and fists collide with faces, and then they… dance. Seriously. The action is perfectly shot, too, using a filter to exaggerate all the colours so that every frame is wonderfully iridescent. The editing is great, and the cinematographers really know how to properly capture the fights. The only let down is a scene towards the end which, for some reason, suddenly switches to low-grade video (one wonders if they experienced last minute budgeting problems). It’s quite a shock, and really distracts from the awesome arse-kicking going down.
The real star of the film is Yanin Vismistananda as Deu (who was previously in the non-Johnny Depp Chocolate). She may be short and slight, but it’s clear that she could knock your brain out through your nose if she put her mind to it. The actress holds a 3rd Dan black belt in Taekwondo and as I said, Muay Thai is the style that features most prominently in the film. She’s surrounded by a cast all chosen for their physical prowess, including a break dancing crew, a French TRICKZ martial arts champion and an Asian Pacific Women’s Bodybuilding Champion. They all get a chance to strut their stuff, and whilst the performers ever so occasionally use wires, there are definitely no stunt doubles.
I’m not the biggest martial arts movie fan, not usually having the patience to sit through the banal plotting to get to the action, but Raging Phoenix simply features SO MUCH action that it won me over. I mean, when the climactic fight runs for close to 30 minutes, how can one complain about inadequate storytelling?
It’s by no means a well-rounded film, but thanks to the incomparable Vismistananda and truly breathtaking action, Raging Phoenix is a must for those who want some mindless fisticuffs.
Raging Phoenix is released on DVD on 15 December through Madman.Rating: