This film had been on my to-watch list for the longest time before I was finally persuaded towards a rental by the recommendation of a pal. I'm happy to say that I'll be thanking him for his suggestion, because "Bangkok Adrenaline" is quite an entertaining movie. I don't gravitate towards martial arts comedies much, even the biggest and best of them, but this one ends up being an exception. It obviously isn't everyone's cup of tea, but despite a rocky start, this freshman outing of director Raimund Huber (Kill Em All) certainly makes my day through the power of its offbeat storyline and its trainload of action.
The story: four friends vacationing in Bangkok find themselves thick in gambling debt to a mafia boss. With one week to repay their massive balance, they initiate a plan to kidnap and ransom the daughter of local millionaire (Geoffrey Giuliano, The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption), but are ill-prepared when their plot intersects with a fiendish plan of the man's own...
I wasn't sure I was going to like this movie as much as I eventually did - at least not within the first thirty minutes or so. The lead characters aren't very well defined and much of what they do outside of action scenes is either vaguely cruel or pretty stupid. However, somehow they ended up growing on me, probably as a natural result of me getting comfortable with the comedic tone of the film and because they end up becoming heroes, albeit by accident. The acting isn't great - particular dramatic offenders include Priya Suandokemai as the kidnapee, Lex de Groot (Kingdom of War) as one of the lead henchmen, and director Huber himself as one of the main four - but the unpredictable and occasionally clever writing helps make up for any performance deficiencies. The dramatic twist in the middle of the film genuinely surprised me, and it was at this (at the very latest) that I began warming up to the picture.
And even if you don't like the story, so what - the action scenes will make this worthwhile viewing for just about any cinematic adrenaline junkie. These aren't the best fight scenes ever filmed, but they're high above average. At worst, the chase scenes feel a bit like they're aping Ong-Bak and the fight choreography features a few too many facetious acrobatics, but in the end the action direction comes together for a very exciting and likeable package. I particularly enjoyed a two-against-many fight in an empty warehouse which featured some fun double-team choreography, as well as an encounter in a tight walkway wherein the performers were still somehow able to pull off some great XMA moves. More than anything, this movie is a spectacular showcase for longtime Hong Kong stuntman and first-time star Daniel O'Neil (Vampire Effect), who disappointingly seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth after the film's release. Come back, Dan! - we need more folks like you in these movies!
As proven by his later feature, director Huber definitely has a knack for this sort of flick, and the world of DTV martial arts films will definitely be a better place if this weirdo can keep on getting projects, even if they take a few minutes to get used to. It may be the forgiving martial arts enthusiast who gives this one a better score than me, but I can think of few folks who won't be able to get into this one's adrenaline ride. Give a look!