4/13/09

The Grab Bag: Spirited Killer (1994)

They say never judge a book by its cover. I think it’s well more important in this day and age to say, “Never judge a DVD by its case.”, and today I have a spectacular example for you. I’ve been a fan of Tony Jaa ever since I first caught Ong-Bak on cable, and I’ve since seen a few of his other recent films. When I saw the case for tonight’s film while browsing the used bins, I was astounded that there was a film featuring Jaa that I hadn’t heard of. The box art looked all new with pictures of Tony looking more cut than Tyler Durden and ready to slam his knee right into someone’s head. That’s not exactly what I got though because instead I found myself watching….. 
Spirited Killer [Thailand: Plook mun kuen ma kah 4] (1994) starring Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai. Directed by Panna Rittikrai and Towatchai Ladloy. 

After a village puts a crooked witchdoctor to death, they are menaced by an indestructible madman with a thirst for blood. The village sends out men to stop him, but he cuts through each wave. Only the secrets of holy metal can save the villagers from utter destruction.


The Bugg Picture

That’s one short synopsis there, isn’t it? There’s good reason for that though. Spirited Killer is very short on plot and very high on action. In fact in some ways I felt that this flick was an inverted slasher. Instead of trying to run away from the crazed killer who is unstoppable, these people are practically lining up to get killed. 

Spirited Killer a.k.a. Plook mun kuen ma kah 4 is actually part of a series of “Forest Man” films starring Panna Rittikrai who also choreographed the action. Rittikrai would go on to handle the stunts on the Jaa films the Protector and Ong-Bak. Here he stars as the titular killer, and unstoppable force with a piercing stare who also seems to be made of metal though the film never bothers to establish his origins. All we know is that he seems mad, he wears a windbreaker, and he’ll kill anyone he comes across, and I suppose that’s all we need to know. 

Spirited Killer doesn’t get bogged down in motivations or character development and instead sticks to what it does best, deliver some really spectacular beat downs. While they are in no way the best martial arts that I’ve seen on film, the fight scenes are very entertaining and contain a fair amount of humor as well. None of them come near the visceral thrill of seeing Tony Jaa deliver a knee to someone’s head in Ong-Bak, but they are all consistory varied, with many weapons getting used, and interesting. 

Speaking of Jaa, you may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned him. Well that’s because Tony shows up about 2/3 of the way though the movie and soon gets whacked. Before he makes his exit, he and Rittkrai do perform the best action sequence in the whole film. However short his scenes are, they do illustrate the skill that he had even at that young age. 

The rest of the film is filled with a gaggle of fairly nondescript characters, and none of them are done any service by either the terrible dubbing on the DVD or the poorly done subtitles. The dubbing is outlandish and sounds more on top of the film than mixed into it, and the subtitles are rife with inaccuracies and typos such as a naïve young girl being described as “naOive”. If it were not for the fight scenes, I would have turned this one off with the quickness. As it was it’s an interesting film due to the involvement of Jaa and Rittkrai. This is one for anyone who’s seen all of Jaa’s recent work, but for the uninitiated check out his more recent filmography. I can guarantee their cover art will deliver what you’re expecting. 

Bugg Rating

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