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DVD Review: ‘Edge of the Empire’

★★☆☆☆

Some may argue that without a cultured knowledge of Thai cinema it would be unfair to judge a film like Edge of the Empire (2010) alongside similar westernised productions, as we may not understand its true worth; therefore, a little research into the film’s crew and cast is necessary before analysing the overall quality of the movie. Having done that it appears as though there is very little to misunderstand – it is just not a good film. Aside from one brilliantly choreographed scene of intense, powerful, and sexy violence, Edge of the Empire  is a weak portrayal of a bloody and brutal historical conflict that has very little in the way of believable performances from its cast.

The film is set during the dark years of the 12th century, when the mighty Han Empire stretched from India in the West to Thailand in the East. When the Emperor decides to raise taxes to fund a bloody war, hardship falls on the Thai people’s nation. Tensions mount and Thai unrest increases, leading to the vicious and brutal treatment of the Thai people by their colonial rulers. In predictable fashion, a hero, in the guise of a young farm boy, rises up against the brutes to face his destiny, becoming a deadly warrior and defending his nation by fighting terror and the enemy. Whilst the filmmakers claim that Edge of the Empire features the most extensive CGI background work of any Thai film, it appears cheap and out of sync.

CGI butterflies burst into view against backgrounds that almost appear to be hand-painted, providing a hallucinogenic-like canvas, against which a brutally epic film unfolds. The only saving grace for the irrelevant use of CGI is in the scripted moments that are imbued with the importance of solidarity and togetherness, making its application of such effects less confused than at first thought. Nevertheless, Edge of the Empire lacks real conviction as a result, not seeming to know what type of film it really is. Regardless of its failures, there is one fantastic scene that highlights the talents of Nirattisaj Kaljareuk, the film’s director. In an attempt to claim back territory, the Boonpun clan perform a dance for Litongjia – one of the Han’s most brutal leaders – and use the beautifully choreographed routine to mount an attack.

The wonderful juxtaposition of sexual allure evoked by the Thai girl dancers, and the violence that they and the hidden Boonpun soldiers beautifully enact, create a scene that is evocative in a manner that provides a fresh, sexed-up portrayal of battle. Yet aside from this wonderfully shot and choreographed scene, the film does fail to convince, with the most disappointing aspect being the performances of its cast. Nirattisaj Kaljareuk is a newcomer to the world stage and clearly has some innovative ideas to offer film, particularly with regards to how he shoots battle sequences, like the choreographed, rhythmic nature of the aforementioned battle scene, but for now Edge of the Empire will stand as a film that carries a positive message that gets lost amidst a confused sense of direction.

Russell Cook