copyright © 2010 Sahamongkol Film International
For all intent and purposes, everyone thought that when Tony Jaa came on the scene in Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong that we had the next big Martial star and that it would be some time that we saw another artist come along with his capability, or at least I did if no one else thought the same.
So how wrong I was and hopefully some of you readers are too. So when Prachya Pinkaew and Panna Rittikrai announced they had found a young girl to star in their next film there was quite some excitement around after the success of Tony Jaa's films by the same team. Well, the Girl in question was Yanin Vismistananda (nicknamed JeeJa) who was born in 1984.
But what was clever about Chocolate and the then very young Yanin was that under the guidance of Panna Rittikrai Yanin got the training that would make her shine on screen in a film that was filmed over about 2 years, so that Yanin who plays Zen who is Autistic actually ages in the film, which was a nice touch as you can see her get older, obviously this is only for her teenage years as other people were used to depicting her as a small child or the film would have taken 18 years to make.
Yanin was already versed in Taekwondo and underwent more extensive martial training and stunt work under Panna Rittikrai.
The story goes that Zin who is a woman that works for a Thai gangster gets romantically involved with a Yakuza boss (Massashi) and marries against the wishes of her Thai employer, with who she had a relationship before.
Her employer No'8 gets annoyed by this and forbids Zin from being with Massashi . (he shoots his own toe in disgust) .Massashi leaves and returns to Japan and No'8 tells Zin to have no contact with him, but a short while after Zin finds she is pregnant and when the child arrives sends a letter to Massashi to tell him about his daughter, this letter gets intercepted by No'8 who goes to Zin's house and threatens her and cuts her toe-off. Zin ends up getting cut off and moves house next door to a Muay Thai academy. Now her daughter( ZEN) is discovered to be Autistic and will need special care.
But what is evident is that Zen has a passion for martial arts films and watching the nearby Muay Thai students. Zin gets help from her younger brother who realizes Zen's passion for the arts and focuses on this and as she gets older they do street shows where she dodges balls that are thrown at her without looking and other tricks.
Zen also copies the moves she sees on film and at the Martial arts school next door. So when Zin falls ill with cancer her brother and Zen make money through the shows to pay medical expenses, but this is not enough. Now her brother discovers a book with names of people that owe Zin money and in an attempt to reclaim this money they approach the named people, but as they are all dodgy or criminal and connected to her past with No'8 there attempts fail and this frustrates Zen who one night has a brainstorm she should ask for the money and when they refuse, she would make them pay.
So as you can see this is one tough kick flick as Zen unleashes her fists and feet in a fury that will have you on the edge of your seat, from the first major fight to the last you will see her go through all styles of fighting with Homages played out to Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan right up to Tony Jaa style of Muay Thai.
With death-defying stunts that are reminiscent of the cinema of Hong Kong in the Eighties and Nineties. The first fight is a Bruce Lee-style fight in a Factory-filled with ice (Big Boss) and then we are treated to a warehouse fight with lots of props and crates and boxes, crowbars being used (Dragons Forever). But not only does this film shine in the fight stakes, but also in the story and acting especially on the part of Zen played by Jeeja.
Compared to most Thai films of this nature where the story is the last thing they think of, Chocolate gives you the full package. We all know Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong were great films but the stories were a bit lame 'hey you stole my Buddha Head or Hey you stole my Elephant'.
As with all Thai films, I seem to watch there's always a helping of Ladyboys in the films and Chocolate is no exception as No'8 's gang is run with the help of such a person and his /her lady Boyfriends. But once you see a couple of these films you kinda get used to it.
But it's a bit weird the first time to be sitting there watching these people.
So Watch out Tony Jaa, Jeeja's in Town and giving it large Bruce Lee style with a helping of Jackie Chan stuntwork to boot.
But if there is only one Thai film you see 'Chocolate should be at the top of your list as it shines in all departments and we wait with anticipation for Jeeja's next film (Raging Phoenix)
Original Review by: Sertes Nake - 2010
Review Page update : September 2021
Watch out Tony Jaa, Jeeja's in town and giving it large Bruce Lee style with a helping of Jackie Chan stuntwork to boot