(Magnolia/Magnet Films, 2009)
Note: mildly spoiler-ish review below
If, perhaps, you are a comicbook fan who thought that the TV series "Heroes" became deathly dull, slow, timid and repetitive, or that the "X-Men" films are a bit sluggish and top-heavy, or that in general movies about superheroes would have more action, better ideas and less exposition, then check this flick out.
Originally released in 2007 under the title "Opapatika," it's part of the recent wave of giddly, low-budget, high-concept action films coming out of Thailand, with a similar vibe to the earlier Honk Kong kung-fu/crime films of the 1990s. In this case, there's an interesting mix of concepts, blending super-powers with a weird variation on familiar themes of the undead: the opapatika are a unique breed of super-ghouls, humans who take their own lives (under certain circumstances which aren't made very clear) and are reborn as super-beings, each with their own unique power, and their own haunting past. Each opapatika faces a psychic backlash when they use their powers, including one seemingly central character who loses his senses -- sight, hearing, taste, etc. -- one by one as the action goes on. Many of the powers are familiar to comicbook readers: a speedster who kills his enemies faster than they can see, a berserker who loves to kill, a hitman who can instantly determine each opponent's weakest spots (and who has a great duel with an unkillable immortal foe), etc.
The logic of the plot and the arc of the script are often unclear (in part due to the translation, and also because that's just how these quickie Asian films are most of the time...) It takes a long time to sort out the loyalties and motivations of most of the characters, but it hardly matters, because this film is mainly devoted to ACTION, and the fights are pretty graphic and gruesome. And fun. Looking to English-language comics for comparisons, this film clearly comes out of the "realistic" superhero tradition set by books such as Rick Veitch's "Marvel Man," Frank Miller's "Dark Night," and, especially, Ed Brubaker's "Sleeper." These guys have gnarly powers, and when they use them, they don't [...] around: there's a lot of damage inflicted. This flick may be low-budget, but it's exciting in a way that most of the American super-hero films are not-- it actually shows a lot of action, and infuses that action with visceral, immediate emotion. The director also tries to include a meditative, artful side -- some of the cinematography is very pretty and although the "quiet" moments are silly and pretentious, they also work to balance the film. This is definitely worth checking out. (Joe Sixpack, Slipcue film reviews)