Magnolia Pictures // 2009 // 77 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 8th, 2010
Terrorists attack a hospital and group of Muay Thai-practicing kids battle them to ensure their little friend gets the surgery he needs to live. How a movie with this premise can be so screwed up is baffling.
At a small Muay Thai school, brothers Wun and Woot are learning the ins and the outs of elbowing large men in the skull by a teacher who likes beating small boys with whips for some reason. Wun has a heart condition, which flares up, sending him to a hospital for an emergency heart transplant. Unfortunately, a US ambassador is at the same hospital, prompting a group of terrorists to invade and take over the facility. Woot and his pals aren't going to have any of it, so they sneak in and systematically eliminate each terrorist, until the final battle, a showdown with the murderous leader (Johnny Nguyen, The Rebel).
You know what's a better "Die Hard-with-kids" movie? That Sean Astin effort, Toy Soldiers, which kind of sucked. But at least there were, you know, kids fighting terrorists. Power Kids promises us some surreal violence being wrought by pre-adolescents and directed towards violent scofflaws, but we are largely denied that sight. This thing clocks in at 77 minutes and the terrorists don't even show up until the halfway point. And when they do finally hit the bricks, propelling our detachment of pint-sized overachievers into action, the actual fisticuffs are hugely lacking.
Look, I know that a movie called Power Kids shouldn't be measured against hard-ass Tony Jaa-fare, but I counted exactly one entertaining action sequence: the last bout against Johnny Nguyen. To the film's credit, this is a legitimately entertaining sequence. But, brother, you are going to have trudge through a lot of silliness to get there.
Before the first terrorist opens fire, the kids team up to beat on a drunken American, withstand intense corporal punishment from their teacher and participate in a superfluous RC car race. They also trade nonsensical chatter with each other, to build up their camaraderie I suppose, but the foundational premise of a bunch of young kids taking down highly-trained terrorists is so ridiculous, no amount of character development is going to offset that insanity.
And you know, fine! I was hoping for some insane kids-vs-terrorists insanity! Who cares if fifty percent of the kids in the movie are annoying? Fifty percent of all kids are annoying! Or that the impact from a 12 year-old's kick wouldn't even leave a friction burn on a grown man's arm? Or that the police would stand idly by and watch these children climb dangerous ledges and dodge gunfire? Just give me the crazy! Yet save for that nifty burst at the end, it never really comes. The result is not-quite-80-minutes of nonsense, flashes of impressive pre-pubescent acrobatics, and a total waste of Johnny Nguyen, who really needs to hit it big soon.
A well-performing Blu-ray blasts out the disappointment in high-def. The 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is attractive and renders the action with clarity. Magnolia does well with these imports and their technical record remains strong. It is a bright and vibrant film and earns a transfer that properly exposes the style. Good, clean stuff from the two DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, which come in English and Thai flavors (the dubbing is as painful as you'd expect, but the original language with subtitles doesn't make the plot or dialogue any more coherent). Extras include some forgettable behind-the-scenes footage and a making-of documentary.
The most perplexing aspect of this release? It's rated R. And just for some gunshot wounds that could have been edited around? Why consciously push out such a huge target audience?
These kids might have power, but so do I. On my Blu-ray player. And I'm turning it off right now.
Off to detention with the lot of you.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Thai)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 77 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R