Hit Man File

Reviewed by Simon Booth

Director: Sananjit Bangsapan
Cast: Chitchai Plengpanit, Saranyoo Wongkrachang, Suntisuk Promsiri, Bongkot Kongmalai, Thanit Jitnukul
Year: 2005
Running Time: 95 minutes

Hey, where am I? Who are all these people? What's going on? I'm confused!

As a big fan of badly subtitled wu xia pian, this is not an unfamiliar state for me - but since HIT MAN FILE is neither badly subtitled nor wu xia, I do feel that I should have had more of a clue by the end of the film as to who these people were, and more importantly why they were killing each other. The overall plot is fairly straightforward - organised criminals, police (corrupt and uncorrupt) and politicians all have agendas of the conflicting kind and people must die. A former soldier turned hitman gets caught up in the crossfire, as does his generously endowed agent. The details, however, are often rather murky - I may have known who the characters were, but not like I _knew_ them. It felt like I was only seeing pieces of a bigger story that writer/director Sananjit Bangsapan clearly had in his head, but chose not to share with us (or assumed greater powers of clairvoyancy in his audience than I can bring to the table).

It's clear that the director had the desire to create a moody, stylised and fatalistic story of characters on the edge of society, and that Wong Kar-Wai was an inspiration (specifically FALLEN ANGELS and CHUNGKING EXPRESS, though this film is far less giddy or quirky than either). However, he neglected to provide us with the voice-overs that WKW used to help the viewer become acquainted with his characters and their stories. I'm not averse to films that credit the viewer with enough intelligence to figure out what's going on without having expository dialogue shoved down their eye sockets - but I guess I need a little more to work with than HIT MAN FILE provides.
Which is a shame, because there's a lot to like about it - it's very nicely shot, has a good soundtrack and is generally of a high technical standard. There are some good shoot-outs (quite realistic - don't expect John Woo style bullet ballet), mostly good acting and a lot of atmosphere. It's just that the lack of character definition left me feeling very detached from it all... events that are probably very interesting if you understand their place in the big picture fail to raise any great sense of emotional involvement, because the big picture is a blur.
It's still a fairly enjoyable watch with some really nice scenes, but the enjoyment is mostly found from aesthetics - I was not engaged by the story. All in all, quite a strange film to end up getting an R1 release (from KINO) when so many more accessible Thai films do not. Probably because it's aimed at the art-house crowd who can stroke their beards afterwards and feel superior to those poor plebians who watch simple little films with plots they can understand - what a small world they inhabit. Which, come to think of it, I'm not averse to doing myself! But it definitely felt that more could have been made of the film - and recalling the Pang Brother's BANGKOK DANGEROUS, it might be said that it already has.
Bongkot Kongmalai

6 beard strokes out of 10