"Muay Thai Giant" here (or "Somtum," which is a more apt title) is a pretty unique movie for giving the spotlight to a performer who thus far had been limited to henchman/enforcer/support-villain status throughout his film career - namely that giant among men, Nathan Jones. What's more, it places him in a fairly unique role, or at least one that few people would expect after seeing him in The Protector. Its DVD cover is slightly misleading as to informing you who the real action star of the picture is, but nevertheless, it's still a surprisingly watchable movie. It doesn't really throw any surprises at you, but for its scale and premise, it's thoroughly entertaining.
The story: possessing "the body of a giant but the heart of an ant," Barney Emerald (Jones) is robbed of his passport while visiting Thailand and subsequently finds himself caught up in both the lives of a fatherless family and the dealings of an underworld circle looking to sell a piece of criminal technology. Only when he realizes and masters the raging power he wields upon eating a spicy somtum dish will he be able to help the former and take on the latter.
While anybody can imagine Jones playing the part of a raging red hulk (he literally changes color upon eating that papaya salad), it's more difficult to imagine him playing a meek character prior to that who doesn't know how to fight. This is true for anyone who's seen him in other movies; it's doubly true for anyone who witnessed his years as a pro wrestler; it's triply true for anyone who knows that he earlier in life had gone to prison for no less than eight armed robberies; and it's practically unthinkable for most everyone who just looks at the man and sees that he's seven feet tall with a bodybuilder's physique. However, through an amount of dramatic talent that I know he's never going to be recognized for, Jones succeeds...for the most part. The tender, playful scenes he shares with some characters come naturally, so that for the first time in a movie he actually seems like a likable guy. However, his physique alone sort of defies that he's written as a physically ineffectual scaredy-cat: this is the sort of man who'd break your bones on accident during everyday events, and thus it's hard to believe that he could ever be 100% defenseless, even when he's ganged up on.
Then again, the filmmakers likely stressed this point because, contrary to what the DVD cover would have you assume, Jones only has two fights in the movie, both of which don't occur until almost the very end of the picture. Most of the previous four fights are picked up by junior boxing champion Sassia Jimdamanwee (Power Kids), who's an action heroine in the making if I ever saw one: though her first fight features the most blatant use of wirework I've ever seen in a Thai film and is terribly mediocre, her subsequent two fights against Than Srisuke (The Hangover Part II) are more than satisfying. Dan Chupong (Ong Bak 3) plays a character in the first half of the film and leads a very nice three-on-one fight in a kitchen, and tae kwon do starlet Kessarin Ektawatkul (Born to Fight) takes part in a street fight with Sassia. Though Nathan Jones' two fights feature minimal martial arts and are clearly styled after pro wrestling matches (even featuring fellow grapplers Sylvester Terkay, Luther Reigns, and Tom Howard), the choreography is impressive and the physicality looks painful. Cumulatively, this may not be Panna Rittikrai's best work, but it's still pretty good.
Because this is both a comedy and a Thai film, we're also treated to some remarkably absurd scenes, such as Jones training in kickboxing with a small boy and taking part in an imaginary striptease scene. In a worst case scenario, scenes like these would make a viewer think less of Jones and his previous powerhouse performances, but personally, I think a part like this gives him more dimension as an actor. I don't know if he's meant to be a leading man, but I definitely wouldn't mind seeing him in a few more large roles in the future. Check it out, if you like some surreality with your action.