OF THE EMPIRE
DVD region 2. Metrodome.
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
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.
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.
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