3 or 3.5 stars out of 5 for this one. Lame title, kind of a cool flick. POWER KIDS, an action film from Thailand, supposes that pre-teen, early teen Muay Thai-fighting children can take on grown-up terrorists and wipe the floor with them. Unlike the Douglas brothers in 3 NINJAS, the kids here actually demonstrate the requisite skills and believability to pull it off. Woon and his older brother Woot attend a Muay Thai school with their friends, so that would explain all the martial arts. But life has saddled young Woon with heart disease, leaving the boy in dire need of a transplant. As Woon's condition worsens drastically, a matching organ surfaces. But then rebel terrorists seize control of the hospital holding the heart. Time for Woon's older brother and his friends to pull a John McClane. The kids spring into action under a deadline of four hours, that being the time limit for the donated heart's liability for a successful transplant.
POWER KIDS isn't polished. It's got plenty of rough around the edges and, really, the film doesn't get going until Johnny Nguyen (from THE REBEL) and his terrorists take over the hospital. Before that, there are scenes which inform the viewer of how much young Woon is cherished by his older brother and his friends. It's frankly a bit too schmaltzy. There's a comedy action bit featuring an Ugly American getting his what handed to him by the children and also a race sequence involving motorized toy cars which serves to expand on one of the kid's background and to then launch the central plot thread. For the action buff, things pick up after that.
Their names are really long, but the kids who play "Woot" and "Cat" are the two primary kid fighters and they had to train for two to three years before the director thought them prepared enough that they could finally start shooting. And these kids are phenomenal and look convincing with their nifty Muay Thai and the dazzling gymnastics they perform. It's again demonstrated - although these kids aren't at the level of Tony Jaa or Jeeja Yanin - that there is perhaps no more gratifying or more visceral move in martial arts than a fully committed Muay Thai knee applied to the noggin. These kids throw plenty of knees and elbows, and their climactic showdown with Johnny Nguyen is pretty epic.
As unbelievably skilled as Woot and Cat are, I like the fact that it took multiple kicks and elbows and flips from the kids to put down a bad guy and also that a S.W.A.T. unit was key in corralling the bad guys. It's a crazy enough story, but somehow the fact that the kids don't end up single-handedly saving the day lends added realism to the screen. The film tries to add even more melodrama by sympathetically portraying a young girl who is part of the terrorist group, but she doesn't get enough screen time for it to matter. In one way, she does end up as the deus ex machina to one heck of a dilemma which surfaces late in the film.
And now, the media-bashing paragraph: I can't believe how irresponsible the media was in this picture. The hospital's getting taken over by terrorists doesn't escape the press's attention, and soon reporters and camera crews are all camped out outside the hospital, posting their reports, filming their clips, and endangering those trying to escape by exposing them on camera. This is what happens in the movie, yeah, but you and I can see this happening in real life, right? It's all about the ratings, baby.
I say, overlook the low budget production values and the non-acting (the best actor here is this girl whose character's name is Jib). Tolerate the slow moments in the first half of the film. Try not to get exasperated at the exasperating kid (his name is Pong) whose martial arts discipline is knee-biting. Because you'll want to check out POWER KIDS for the really decent martial arts stuff. Thai boxing is the shiznit, and these kids demonstrate a real aptitude for it. I don't mean the knee biter.
The DVD has two bonus featurettes: the Making of POWER KIDS (00:08:41 minutes long, with English sub-titles) and footage which goes behind the scenes of some of the action sequences (00:04:38 minutes, without English subtitles, but you don't need them).