Saturday 2 August 2008

One Take Only (2001)

I was very impressed by both The Eye, the original Hong Kong version, and the unrelated film that went by the title The Eye 2. They were directed by the Pang brothers, Oxide and Danny, who had a few other films to their credit by that time, this being one made while they were living in Thailand. The original title is Som and Bank: Bangkok for Sale, which makes a lot more sense than One Take Only and highlights the two lead characters. Both live on the darker side of Thai culture, but not too far.

Som is a prostitute who still hangs out with her girlfriends; Bank is a small scale drug runner who dreams of being a tough guy. They live only two floors apart in the same housing complex and occupy much the same space: early on we see them crossing paths all the time without actually talking to each other. They finally meet and fall in love, though naturally Som doesn't let on what she does for a living.

The film is highly stylised, especially in the action sequences, often edited in time with the music which is generally Prodigy style techno: lots of jerky repetitions like the editor of the film was scratching a record. It's effective but it doesn't feel anywhere near as groundbreaking as it feels like Pang was expecting it to be. In fact on occasion it's a more than a little annoying. The firefight is impressive though: confusing but deliberately and effectively so, just as the actual incident would have been to the characters.

The leads are both very good indeed, though as this is probably my fourth or fifth Thai film ever I don't recognise either of them. Som is Wanatchada Siwapornchai, and I was surprised to see that this is her only film. There's a lot of depth in what she brings to the part: she's believable in the various different facets of the role. She's a more complex character than Bank, who is a small fish in a big pond, always one step from being a long way out of his depth. He's played by Pawarith Monkolpisit, and he's very believable in convincing us that most of the decisions he's made in his life were bad ones.

Monkolpisit has only made one other movie according to IMDb, but it seems that IMDb is not as reliable when it comes to eastern actors. It would seem that Pawarith Monkolpisit and Pawalit Mongkolpisit are the same person, so there are other titles to look out for. It's the believability of these performances that makes the film worthwhile, because otherwise it isn't a patch on what the Pang brothers would do later on. In essence it's a very simple story jazzed up by editing and enrichened by the leads, and while there's much that's promising there's not much that really delivers.

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