BCI Eclipse // 1994 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 19th, 2006
Coinciding with action stud Tony Jaa's recent release of The Protector, this film, which marks his theatrical debut, arrives in spiffy new packaging, with Jaa's visage adorning the cover art. Too bad he's in it for like 50 seconds.
In the forests of Thailand, a demented shaman named Dr. Duang has been feeding gullible villagers a so-called magic potion of youth. There is an unfortunate side effect, however -- it kills people. When a group of fellow villagers learn about the doctor's malicious chemistry, they set out to bring him to justice. Some fighting commences, and Duang is sliced up with a sword and dumped into a river.
An indeterminate amount of time later, a mysterious figure emerges in the forest. He's silent and deadly and wears a jacket. He is the Spirited Killer (Panna Rittikrai), a lunatic possessing incredible fighting prowess who dismantles anyone that crosses his path. One of these suckers is Victim #2, played by Tony Jaa (Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior). Theirs is just one of many jungle fight sequences that ultimately culminate in a showdown with some motivated villagers, a group of Japanese academics on a field trip and a special return guest.
First things first: if you are tricked into thinking this is a Tony Jaa action film -- and make no mistake, BCI wants you to believe that with their Jaa-crammed packaging -- you will be phenomenally disappointed when you spin this disc. The guy is in for only a few minutes and spends the bulk of that time getting slapped around like a punk-ass bitch. At least I think it was him. I had to watch it a few times to make sure. The film is 12 years old, and Jaa (yeah, it's him) is just a scrawny tent-pole who is totally outshone by Rittikrai.
So that's the short version. If you want some Ong Bak action you've come to the wrong place. However, if you want some wacky Thailand kung fu action, then Spirited Killer may be the movie for you.
Yeah, Jaa's appearance is a wash; props need to be forked over to Panna Rittikrai. Apparently, the man is an action icon in the Thailand film world, and I can see why: homeboy has some moves. Though he doesn't utter a single syllable the entire runtime -- not even a grunt or a belch! -- Panna dominates the screen when he's on. That's pretty much because he's only on to throttle his hapless villagers with his lightning-quick attacks. Though the style doesn't appear to be straight Muay Thai like the combat found in Ong Bak (it's more a cocktail of different styles to this layman's eyes), the fights are still kinetic and fun to watch.
What will likely generate the most entertainment, however, isn't the choreography or the engaging plot, but the hilarious dubbing that's been slapped onto this sucker. It's obvious that the voiceover masters who lent their pipes to the production had some fun with the characterizations (especially the mentally challenged fighter who battles with a plastic battery-powered fan), but the script -- judging by the subtitles -- was insane to begin with. And as a bonus: try to guess what movie soundtracks were pilfered and sloppily pasted on this one as background score.
Overall, Spirited Killer is half-decent martial arts movie, with lots of fisticuffs and hilarious dubbing. What sucks is the misinformation dished out by the studio. Again, Tony Jaa is not the star of this film. He's in it for a brief smackdown with Panna Rittikrai who, thankfully, is no slouch himself.
BCI really went for overkill here, treating the release as if it's the most anticipated release of the year and not simply a goofy little Thai martial arts flick. The packaging and artwork is beautiful. Disc one features the film in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, which is bogged down by some damaged source materials, leading to weird color saturation and a scratchy visual here and there. You have your pick of two-channel Thai or English. Disc two is all special features, some good, some annoying. Good: an intro to Panna Rittikrai, featuring footage from his films, a conversation with an American stuntman working in Thailand and an overview of the Thai action genre. The annoying: bootlegged footage from a Tony Jaa appearance in Manhattan, anther handheld feature about Jaa in Thailand and a Muay Thai demo that blacks out inexplicably halfway through.
If it wasn't hyped up as a Jaa-centric film, I'd have nicer things to say about Spirited Killer, a weird and enjoyable action film.
Guilty of deceit, the studio is given a few elbows to the skull.
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BCI Eclipse
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Thai)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Master of Action: Panna Rittikrai"
* "Thailand Dangerous"
* "Tony Takes Manhattan!"
* "Tony Jaa: Thailand's Favorite Son"
* "Muay Thai Featurette