The Red Eagle อินทรีแดง
2010, colour, 2.35:1, 130 mins
Directed by Wisit Sasanatieng (วิศิษฏ์ ศาสนเที่ยง)
By Derek Elley
Fri, 29 October 2010, 04:37 AM (HKT)
Messy Thai super-hero movie sledge-hammers the viewer into submission. Genre events and ancillary.
Bangkok, 2013. Amid civil strife and demonstrations against the construction of Chumporn nuclear power plant, Liberal Party leader Direk Damrongprapa (Pornwut Sarasin) campaigns during an election on an anti-corruption platform, supported by his fiancee Vasana Tienpradap (Yarinda Bunnag), a Harvard geology PhD from one of the 10 richest families in Thailand. Three years later Vasana has split with Direk, who is now prime minister, over what she sees as his betrayal in refusing to stop construction of Chumporn. Meanwhile, the capital has seen the emergence of a masked vigilante, Red Eagle (Ananda Everingham), who recently wiped out some drug-dealers, and Detective Chart Wuttikrai (Wannasingh Prasertkul) in put in charge of the case, along with his Sikh colleague Singh (Jonathan Hallman). Red Eagle, who next kills parliamentary member Sonkuan, a child pornographer, has become the no. 1 target of Matulee, a secret society of high-ups that hires masked assassin Black Devil to murder him. Red Eagle is actually Rom Rittikrai, a onetime Special Task Force operative who was rescued a year earlier by Vasana when escaping from an attack by the Matulee and got a bullet in the brain; his terrible headaches can only be relieved by regular doses of morphine. Vasana recognises that Red Eagle and Rome are the same man, ingiting an attraction between them. Meanwhile, Chart and the Matalee continue to hunt Red Eagle down.
Reviving a kitschy Thai super-hero franchise of the 1960s, writer-director Wisit SASANATIENG วิศิษฏ์ ศาสนเที่ยง — best known for his artier, retro-kitsch Tears of the Black Tiger ฟ้าทะลายโจร (2000) — goes for a big-budget, mainstream look in The Red Eagle อินทรีแดง (2010) with splashy widescreen action, the most deafening music track in memory, and Thai-born, Australian-Lao superstar Ananda EVERINGHAM อนันดา เอเวอร์ริ่งแฮม as the eponymous masked vigilante. The result is a repetitive mess with a few good action sequences — most notably, an epic battle between Red Eagle and the demonic Black Devil that starts on the rooftops and traverses an entire department store, including the lift shafts — but is dully written, poorly constructed and seems never-ending until a surprise finish.
Perked up by regular doses of morphine, Red Eagle is a seriously flawed 21st-century super-hero, living in a converted ice house and with dysfunctional feelings for the woman who once saved him, played without much charm by musician Yarinda BUNNAG ญารินดา บุนนาค (far better in Yongyoot THONGKONGTOON ยงยุทธ ทองกองทุน's hit romance Best of Times ความจำสั้น แต่รักฉันยาว (2009)). He's way darker than late actor Mitr CHAIBANCHA มิตร ชัยบัญชา's original incarnation — alcoholic playboy lawyer transformed into suave hero — and the usually charming Everingham, here badly miscast, doesn't generate much sympathy.
However, the main problem is the raggy script — a consistent problem with Sasanatieng's movies — and style-less, hand-held direction. As well as scoring local political points with the plot (political corruption, social unrest) and by making US financial backing the ultimate enemy, Sasanatieng tries on the one hand to send up the genre ("Thai society is looking for a hero" — well, yes, a drug-addled, former Special Task Force thug) and on the other to deliver as much pumped-up action as possible. Visual effects are a notch less than perfect but perfectly okay in the comic-book circumstances. However, the only real character the audience can identify with is the hard-pressed young detective, played with a kind of comic insouciance by musician-writer-TV host Wannasingh PRASERTKUL วรรณสิงห์ ประเสริฐกุล, making his film debut.
An end title promises Red Eagle War: The Deadly Psycho-Robot but whether it's simply a joke or a promise remains to be seen. The film's disappointing local box office, and Sasanatieng's announcement that he's quitting direction for the foreseeable future, could mean this eagle stays grounded for good.
ContactSales: Five Star Production, Bangkok (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Theatrical release: Thailand, 7 Oct 2010.
Produced by Five Star Productions (TH), Kantana Group (TH), Local Color Films (TH). Executive producers: Chareon Iamphungporn, Jaruek Kaljaruek. Producers: Aphiradee Iamphungphorn, Kiatkamon Iamphungphorn, Suradech Assawareunganun, Pawas Sawatchaiyamet.
Script: Wisit Sasanaieng. Original novels: Sake Dusit (first pub. 1956). Photography: Chukiat Narongrit. Editors: Sunit Asvinikul, Phannipha Kabillikavanich. Music: Wild at Heart. Musical supervision: Wanarat Chaiyapan. Production design: Pawas Sawatchaiyamet, Saksiri Chantarangsri. Art direction: Wittaya Chaimongkol, Phairot Siriwath, Pallop Chomtaworn. Costume design: Atchariya Pinitsarapirom. Sound: Sirapob Tungkaseranee. Action: Pradit Seeluem. Visual effects: Watcharachai Panichsuk (Kantana Animation Studios).
Cast: Ananda Everingham (Rom Rittkrai), Yarinda Bunnag (Vasana Tienpradap), Pornwut Sarasin (Prime Minister Direk Damrongprapa), Jonathan Hallman (Singh; Black Devil), Wannasingh Prasertkul (Detective Chart Wuttikrai), Pattanadesh Asasappaku.