“INTRODUCING THE FEMALE ANSWER TO TONY JAA!” Talk about a tough sell — it’s almost impossible to live up to. Almost. Those familiar with the brutal, bone-crunching martial arts movies of Mr Jaa will know they have set the standard following the more cerebral (ie, boring) recent efforts from the likes of Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger...) and Yimou Zhang (Hero and House of Flying Daggers). Those new to this brand of cinema are in for a treat. Forget the wires and unrealistic special effects you might be used to, this is as real as it gets.

Zen (Yanin) is a young autistic girl whose only pleasures seem to be mimicking her favourite action movie stars. Using her skills to make small amounts of money to help her sick mother, Zen gets embroiled in a violent form of debt collection with her friend Mangmoom. Unaware of who the money is coming from, the pair are quickly outnumbered and rely on Zen’s increasing abilities to fight their way out of trouble. So the plot is much of a muchness and won’t be winning any script awards, but let’s be honest we came to this film demanding to see if this is really the "female" Tony Jaa. Given that the man himself has recently gone AWOL from the set of Ong-Bak 2 (thankfully, director Panna Rittikrai has stepped in to save the day there), it gives me great pleasure to say the film is an absolute success. Yanin may be slight of frame but you quickly realise that she can pack a mean punch. Not only that but she isn’t afraid to be on the receiving end of some of the films more explosive moments. There are a couple of occasions when Jaa’s muscular impact might have convinced more, but the action is constructed in such a way that the hyper-kinetic style of Yanin is showcased for all to see.

A protégé of Panna Rittikrai, this is Yanin’s first big screen outing, and she not only convinces in the action stakes but also in acting terms. She brings a depth to the character and indeed has some moving scenes with her mother and best friend. Director Pinkaew certainly knows how to make these sorts of movies, and anyone in need for a fix of real martial arts action need look no further. Chocolate is up there with Ong-Bak in terms of action and "wow" factor, and probably edges it given the nature of the unique lead performer. We want more...

Official Site
Chocolate at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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