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EDGE OF THE EMPIRE
DVD region 2. Metrodome.

Edge of the EmpireThis historical epic makes fellow Thai production Blood of Warriors seem subtle in comparison, with its shameless nationalism and propaganda, but struggles to match the visceral thrills of that earlier film.

Set in 12th century Southern China, it tells the story of the Qin Dynasty’s expansion of the Han Empire into territory owned by the Tai people (the ancestors of modern Thais). When a new Han administrator, Litongjia (Praptpadol Suwanbang), takes over Ler City, he immediately causes unrest by increasing taxes and ruling like a tyrant. Before long, the villagers rebel and a rebellion begins to spread, but uniting the various Tai provinces proves harder than the rebels hoped, and the Han army is on the march.

This is convoluted stuff – characters are introduced, seemingly as the leads, then killed off while others replace them, and while this may (or may not) be historically accurate, it doesn’t make the film all that easy to follow, as supporting characters are suddenly and confusingly elevated to leading roles. If the characters were better defined, it might work more effectively, but as it is, most of them are pretty thinly drawn. Of the cast, Suwanbang is the most memorable, if only for his over-the-top performance as the unremittingly evil, lecherous and deranged administrator, given to boiling his enemies alive in a giant cauldron and eventually brought down by his own horniness.

Edge of the EmpireIn fact, this is pretty melodramatic stuff – the villains are only a step away from twirling their moustaches and tying hapless heroines to railroad tracks, while the heroes are ridiculously noble. When Bunchawee ( Lalisa “Tik” Sontirod) becomes pregnant, we’re reminded of this with no less than three shots of her looking pensive while stroking her belly, while her duplicitous sister (I think) Lampao (Khemchair Kamutchart) sluts it up like a porn star and final hero Gumpawa (Arnuz Lapanich) manages to give a stirringly inspirational speech as he lies dying on the battlefield.

The battle scenes are oddly undramatic – some poor CGI not helping – and for once in a film like this, it’s the scenes of intrigue and plotting that work best. But the film seems too rushed – given the scope of the story, this might have been better as a longer film, or – ideally – a mini-series. There’s simply too much going on, with too many characters, for this work effectively as a 105 minute movie.

By no means terrible, Edge of the Empire feels more like a lost opportunity than a total failure. There is enough happening to keep you watching, but you never find yourself really involved in the story. Perhaps if you are Thai, it will mean more to you, but I felt strangely detached from what I imagine was supposed to be a gripping, emotional and thrilling story.

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW (UK)

 

 

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