Yakaza leader Masashi (Hiroshi Abe) and Zin a tough Thai beauty are part of rival Bangkok gangs. They have an affair, which drives Thai gang leader No. 8 mad with rage and jealousy. Zin asks Masashi to leave. Unknown to him a daughter is born of their union, Zen (JeeJa Yanin). Zin leaves her life as a loan shark and ruthless enforcer to raise her child.
Zen is autistic and she has an amazing ability to learn martial arts by simply observing it. She picks up Muay Thai from the neighbouring academy and from TV movies. When her mother needs money for chemotherapy, Zen a teenager now, must try to collect her mom’s old loan sharking debts. This brings the attention of her parent’s old nemesis and it’s a fight for their lives.
The twist on how the hero learns martial arts is a new one. The autism plot device works well. It easily explains her rapid proficiency and generates sympathy for the hero at the same time. Great martial art movies have always had heroes overcome great challenges. Afflictions like being one-armed, deaf and mute, and of course blindness like Zatoichi or Hua Manlou have been some of the most memorable heroes. The autistic Zen can be added to that list of great fighters.
From the director and producer of Ong Bak, this is another tremendous début for another Thai star. There’s so much kinetic energy in JeeJa Yanin. With no stunt doubles, her fluidity, martial skills and her ability to take punishment is amazing. Her speed and aerial work is simply stunning. It’s very enjoyable to watch. The film lovingly plays homage to some of the greatest fighters of all time. You’ll definitely recognize signature moves of Jaa and Bruce Lee and the frantic fighting style of Jackie Chan. There’s even a fight in an Ice Factory!
Unlike most other Thai films where the supporting characters are there for their comic ability than acting skills, Chocolate is supported masterfully by Japanese star Hiroshi Abe and Thai newcomer Ammara Siripong. Their performances lifted the already tight and well written script. Make sure you watch the end credits. They have some seriously painful outtakes. It’s amazing how Yanin survived those injuries.
A sequel, Chocolate 2 is in the works and will be at least partly filmed in Japan. Jija Yanin returns as the autistic savant martial artist. Hiroshi Abe is thankfully back too. This is very good news. The news I’m concerned with, is that this a 3D movie.
Note: The version I saw is only about 1:30 and I know there’s a 1:50 version out there. So my review rating is for the shorter version.