Thursday, September 18, 2008

GoodmanTown (Thailand, 2002)

It is fully understandable that anyone who has had the pleasure of being joyfully blown away by Sars Wars (2004), that surreally funny example of Thai cinematic excess, would probably find that the preview trailers of Goodman Town promise another fine example of Postmodern Thai filmic genre overkill. Much like Taweewat Wantha's successful attempt at a splatter-tastic comic revamp of the zombie genre in Sars Wars (2004), the director of Goodman Town, Sakchai Sribonnam, attempts a ludicrously over-the-top revitalization of the post-apocalyptic movies of the 80s ala Mad Max (1979/Trailer), Survivor (1987) and any number of Alber Pyun films in which some loner shows up and everything starts exploding. But whereas Sars Wars is 88 minutes of coherently ridiculous, blood-drenched fun (even when dubbed in German), Goodman Town (in German) proves to be 110 minutes of explosive pandemonium and MTV-style editing in search of a story.
Actually, there is a story in the film – or, to be more exact, there are a lot of stories. Seldom has a film been made that features more congruent and equally incoherent storylines; the amount of storylines in Goodman Town is only matched by the number of characters (main, secondary, tertiary and down to the tenth degree) that the film has; but the fact of the matter is that sometimes a straight whiskey is better than a Long Island Ice Tea – especially if the mix is wrong.
True, for the most part all of the storylines do get introduced within the first half-hour and, likewise, they all sort of tie together one way or the other by the end of the film, but nonetheless the overall narrative lack of restraint does much to kill the enjoyability of the movie. Furthermore, the pyromaniac action and explosions quickly become repetitious and redundant; the same thing – BOOM! CRASH! KAPOW! – happens so often that the gunplay and detonations becomes the visual equivalent of being clubbed to death. This greatly detracts from the numerous aspects of the film that are actually effective and/or funny. Some truly great sight gags are simply lost by being sandwiched between a half-dozen gunshots or a casually tossed carton of grenades.
The nominal Mad-Max inspired hero of Goodman Town – complete with a leg brace – is named Mr. Climax; having lost his memory, he wanders the post-apocalyptic desert landscape in search of something, though he knows not what. Goodman Town is a booming settlement in the midst of the wasteland which is coveted by the less successful rival town of Dark Commune (one is hard placed to say which group of misfits is the better of the two, though one gets the feeling the filmmakers want the viewers to sympathize with Dark Commune). Dark Commune is digging a tunnel into Goodman Town so as to invade it, and to keep the rival community in distraction they send a sham fortune teller into town who then informs Tiger Yai, the corpulent town boss, that he has four days to find and marry his beautiful bride or he will die. Soon his minions are running here and there and everywhere in search of his bride. Tiger Yai's alcoholic bride-to-be of choice, the daughter of the leader of Dark Commune, happens to be a dead ringer for Mr. Climax's wife, a desert scavenger/trader out searching for her amnesiac man. Into this pot of trouble come the bad guys. Known as the Four Elements they are named Earth, Wind, Water (a homicidal queen prone to furry black bras) and Fire, four gun-happy killers that not only shoot at everything but also happen to be the arch enemies of Mr. Climax (they are at fault for his lost memory). These basic plot elements and some odd-teen characters of varying important plus a few thousand explosions and an untold number of extras fill the rest of the movie until the tunnel is completed, the invasion starts and almost everyone but Mr. Climax and his wife (and a few others) die.
Sound exciting? Well, it isn't. Even when the action periodically goes John Woo (and even goes over-Woo during the last 15 minutes), the viewer has already been bludgeoned into such indifference that it becomes a true joy when the film finally ends.
OK, Goodman Town does offer some truly inane, surreal and/or funny scenes, most of which are due to the trigger-happy gay caricature personified by Water or concern either Tiger Yai or any number of one-to-three-scene characters, but the film in no way ever achieves a consistent and funnily surreal level of enjoyable disorder. The mayhem never congeals into a whole, and instead simply remains a headache inducing and confusing chaos. Perhaps if the film were to be trimmed by about 15 minutes, something coherently fun might be the result, but even then it would still suffer a good-looking but badly acted lead (Mr. Climax) and a dearth of attractive females. All in all, Goodman Town suffers from too much of everything detrimental and a lack of anything that would make it worth watching. Put this baby up on the shelf next to Lizard Woman (2004/Trailer) as another Thai film that should have been good but somehow went terribly wrong.

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