Taek 4 - Friendship Breakdown
Reviewed by Simon Booth
Starring: Sornram Teppitak, Tao Somchai, Sutthida
Krasemsun (Nook), Pramote Saengsorn
Time: 94 minutes
I think John Woo has been moonlighting from
his Hollywood-Nicholas Cage-love-ins, because this movie was clearly directed
by him! Either that or somebody who has studied and absorbed every little
ounce of his directorial style, anyway. FRIENDSHIP BREAKDOWN is a Heroic
Bloodshed melodrama that feels very much like a Hong Kong movie, very much
like a John Woo bullet ballet.
The plot's all there in the title. 4 young friends,
very close, happy happy. One of them is training to be a cop and one of
the others gets involved in the underworld. His life of crime soon causes
repercussions for his friends, and their friendship is put to the test.
Will it in fact break down, or is friendship stronger than... other stuff?
The movie is pitched at nearly toxic levels of
melodrama, from start to finish it rams its emotional content down your
throat in a manner that is sometimes a little uncomfortable. A good piece
of melodrama is very tasty when you're in the right mood for it though.
The movie is certainly not wall to wall bullet-fest, far from it, but there
are a few action scenes throughout, and it all builds to a final reel of
major incendiary content. The whole movie is very well filmed - the coloured
lighting and angled cameras with fluid movement all feel very Hong Kong.
The use of rotating cameras and slow mo show a clear influence from Woo's
style - an influence that is explicitly acknowledged when one of the characters
picks up 2 guns and is told "Hey, just like John Woo!". At least they're
not being shy about the influence.
So it's a Woo style Heroic Bloodshed movie about
the stresses placed on the relationship between 4 close friends. Nothing
too remarkable in the concept, but it's always good territory for an entertaining
movie. The question then becomes, is it done well? In most respects the
answer here is "yes". The script isn't brilliant, and some of the acting
is pretty bad - but it's fast paced and includes some very nice ideas,
and the cast all look good at least (the female of the 4 is a major cutie).
The action is the main pay-off here, the raison d'être, and they've
definitely put in a lot of effort and pull off some very well done scenes
that stand up there with the top league of HK bullet ballets.
Nice looking movie, you could probably leave your
brain at the door though if not for the DVD. It's the first actual Thai
DVD that I've watched, and it features a decent PAL letterboxed image,
good 5.1 sound mix, and quite the worst subtitles I have ever seen. I mean,
I'm used to having to re-translate subtitles as I read them, but these
were just awful! Quite a bit just isn't subtitled at all (or minimally
so), and the spelling and grammar make the average Mei Ah subtitle job
look like Shakespeare! (Wait, that's a bad analogy).
I could follow what was going on just by picking
out the nouns because the plot is quite straightforward, and I don't think
there was too much subtlety and depth in there for me to miss. Could be
wrong though, maybe in Thai it is a deeply profound and insightful study
of the human condition. Reservations about the DVD aside, I'm glad to have
the movie. It's a slick and exciting movie that should appeal to fans of
Hong Kong Heroic Bloodshed. Technically very good too - my interest in
Thai cinema remains strong.
(Editors Note: As bad as the subs were for
Simon I could not even figure out how to get them to show on my DVD even
though the cover states they are there - so there may be some pirated
or defective versions going around. Even without the subs though this was
fairly easy to understand and I enjoyed it. As Simon says, very John Woo
influenced with bits from A Better Tomorrow I & II, Bullet in the Head
and The Killer present - but sort of junior Woo with young kids (three
of them are also popular singers) pretending to be Chow Yun Fat!)