Saturday, June 23, 2012

In short: Siamese Outlaws (2004)

Original title: 2508 pit krom jap taai

Honourable bandit Khaw (Dom Hetrakul) has a grand plan to rob a whole town full of gold merchants. He can't realize that plan with his small gang alone, so he uses his connections to Bai, the right-hand man of bandit king and black magician Lamay (Akekaphan Bunluerit), to convince the big man to help him out partnering up with Lamay's and some other bandit groups.

The raid on the town goes rather well, even though Khaw's partners don't hold to the rule of no unnecessary killing he has put into effect, and despite a large police force that's getting on their trail soon, the bandits manage to get away clean loaded with riches.

The group decides to part ways and let the literal chest full of treasure rest for seven days, until Lamay can contact what must be a pretty spectacular fence.

Obviously there's betrayal in the air, and Lamay and the other bandit leaders try (and sometimes succeed) to kill each other, and especially Khaw, for the gold, as is tradition. When the bandits aren't infighting, they also have to cope with a particularly angry cop of the type that has no compunctions against torture and shooting bandits in the back.

Winai Patoomboon's Siamese Outlaws may look like a film shot in 2004 (or thereabouts), but at its core, the film is an homage to an earlier era of Thai filmmaking, when Sombat Metanee was king. It's clearly no accident that the great Metanee (who would have played Khaw or the cop when he was younger) has a supporting role here too as one of the smaller bandit leaders. The old star seems to have a lot of fun with his role, affably strutting, shooting from impossible positions and winking at the ladies, and really, if these scenes of Metanee doing his thing in a slightly ironical manner were all Siamese Outlaws had to offer, I'd be perfectly alright with it.

But there's also some humour I found myself actually laughing at (not something that happens often with the comical elements of Thai movies for me), some cool gunfights that won't dethrone the greatest action director of your choice yet have an air of unassuming creativity and - again - fun surrounding them only the terminally po-faced would complain about, a bit of magical (or is it) fighting and some perfectly great shots of jungle, ruins, and ruins in the jungle.

The only element of the film that doesn't seem primed for fun first and anything else second is a slightly awkward turn for the dark in its final act and a bit of moralizing that doesn't fit the mood of the rest of Siamese Outlaws too well. However, Patoomboon's film goes about its tragic and morally uplifting business with the same lack of pretention it shows in every other aspect, making it difficult to disagree with it too much; after all, the film is much too laidback to try and convert you to anything.

Did I mention how fun Siamese Outlaws is?

No comments: