Goodman Town (2002)
Ouch... my brain hurts. Why? Because I've just watched Goodman Town, and tried my level best to follow the plot... no easy task! To call it "convoluted" would be kind - "messy" would be more fair, I think. If you're planning to watch it, I'd recommend reading this synopsis first to prepare:
The year is future, and the time is post apocalypse. The world has been reduced to MAD MAX style banditry and rule of the gun, with the remaining population gathered together in small groups and dressed in "out of the garbage can" fashions. One place that's relatively thrived is Good Man Town... that is, until bandit Tiger Yai takes over the town and displaces the population. The refugees set up Dark Commune, and seek to reclaim Goodman Town as their own. They hatch a plan to tunnel under the town, but it will take them some time. To buy time, they send a fortune teller to Tiger Yai and tell him he must marry in 4 days or die. Tiger Yai buys this story and sends his men off to find his wife - who can be identified by a birthmark on her chest.
Meanwhile, a famous hero called Mr. Climax has been wandering around amnesiac since he was betrayed by 4 famous killers, quite having forgotten what his wife looks like. In fact, his wife looks exactly like the daughter of the chief of Dark Commune (it took me an hour to figure this crucial plot point out, and realise the very cute actress was playing two characters). And, as luck would have it, she's the one that Tiger Yai has to find and marry.
That should be enough to make sense of most of what happens, if and when it's supposed to make sense... and that's certainly not all the time, because Goodman Town is a very *silly* movie. It's an Action Comedy (it says so on the DVD case, so I know), featuring some really silly and often dumb comedy... lots of slapstick and goofiness. It's vaguely reminiscent of BODY JUMPER's puerile humour, but not quite as genuinely funny - or maybe it lost more in the translation? Actually it probably lost a lot because of the terrible acting displayed by most of the cast ?.
So it probably sounds like I didn't enjoy the film... not so, in fact ?. Although it has several gaping flaws, it's quite entertaining and fun to watch. The characters are colourful, and the apocalyptic world quite well conveyed in a low-budget way. Also, the film is very stylishly filmed and edited - I'm guessing the director probably has a music video background, given the relative measures of style versus narrative coherency. There's some really nice camera work, and in particularly there's some stylishly filmed action. The film definitely fits the "Action Comedy" description on the box, as it's relatively chock full of cool action scenes. There's lots of gunplay, some huge explosions and a fair amount of cool posing. The largest portion of this comes in the finale, naturally, which runs a good 20 minutes or so and features more bullets and explosions than most of John Woo's career. Technically, the lack of experience of both cast and crew is evident - but so is their enthusiasm, and certainly no effort was spared in bringing some classy carnage to the screen.
I certainly can't claim that Goodman Town is a great film... the flaws are numerous and large, but it has quite a lot going for it as well. It's fun, stylish and quite creative - just not very well directed and very badly acted. There's some decent special effects and some cute girls (and boys), and lots of action though, which is good enough for a popcorn movie. Not one we're likely to see get wide international distribution though.
Which means, most people are going to have to go to the Thai DVD if they want to see the film. The Mangpong release is below average even for a (recent) Thai film - non anamorphic widescreen picture from a reasonably clean print, with English subtitles burnt into the image (optional Thai subtitles can be displayed above these, taking up half the image with text, most readers of this review won't require those I presume). The picture quality is acceptable, but the DVD features an absolutely terrible 5.1 sound mix - really thin, weak and unbalanced. Thankfully a stereo Thai track is provided as well, and this sounds much better.
Certainly not essential viewing, but quite fun and unique.