- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 2, 2004

“Bang Rajan,” exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema, provides a rare glimpse into the cinema of Thailand, which doesn’t seem to be lacking much in the way of incentive or resources when it comes to staging a visceral combat spectacle in a faraway time frame. A prestige hit four years ago in the country of origin, the movie celebrates what would appear to be a national heroic saga similar to the siege of the Alamo in American history.

In this instance, the warriors of a Siamese village called Bang Rajan, reinforced by sympathetic neighbors who have eluded defeat or capture, resist the northern front of a two-pronged Burmese invasion in 1765. According to a prologue, Siamese defenders were confronted by an army of 100,000 in both directions. Opposition crumbled in the west, a front never depicted by director Thanit Jitnukul. In the north, resistance persisted tenaciously through at least three pitched battles. Lightly fortified at best, Bang Rajan is repeatedly attacked and finally destroyed, with all the principal characters fighting to the bitter end, absorbing multiple wounds by cannon, spear, sword, arrow, bullet, hatchet or mallet.

There was not a speedy payback in the form of a Battle of San Jacinto. Evidently, about a century went by before a resurgent Siamese monarchy could be re-established over the conquered territory. Mr. Jitnukul proves so eager to establish the prowess of his stunt combatants that the movie plunges into a major battle in the opening 10 minutes, before bothering to introduce the characters who will carry dramatic burdens during the rest of the story. (Because I happened to be viewing a screening copy of the movie that lacked subtitles, just about every dramatic nuance was lost on me. The search for a detailed plot synopsis stalled several times. The distribution company seems to have a “Bang Rajan” expert, but he was on his honeymoon.)

I think it’s fair to surmise that the picturesque ferocity and occasional novelty of the fight sequences are what carried the movie to commercial success. It’s not often that one sees a cavalry charge with two water buffaloes as the mounts. Or witnesses the loss of a mighty rustic warrior who has been wielding deadly hatchets in both hands for feature length, until finally brought low by the impact of a gigantic Burmese mallet.

**

TITLE: “Bang Rajan”

RATING: No MPAA Rating (adult subject matter; frequent episodes of combat and carnage; systematic graphic violence, including images of atrocities)

CREDITS: Directed by Thanit Jitnukul. Screenplay by Kongkiat Komsiri, Buinthin Thuaykaew, Patikarn Phejmunee and Mr. Jitnukul. Cinematography by Wichian Ruangwijchayakul. Music by Chatchai Pongprapaphan. In Thai with English subtitles.

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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