The Red Eagle - Trailer
With the rise of superhero films in the West, so comes movies like Red Eagle, a Thai action movie released in 2010. It’s a modern update of a series of films from the late 1950’s up to 1970 (in which the main actor Mitr Chaibancha died during the filming of the final scene) based on Sake Dusit’s Insee Daeng (Red Eagle) series of novels. A true pulp screen hero, The Red Eagle is the vigilante alter-ego of alcoholic detective Rom Ritthikrai, except in the modern take he’s addicted to Morphine. This remake seems to be more of a Punisher meets Batman, with a lot more swordplay and with Jason Todd fashion sense.
What I love about Asian Cinema, particularly of the Thai film industry at the moment, is that anything goes. In order to stay competitive they are taking a lot of risks and putting out ridiculous over-the-top movies. The Red Eagle is the second superhero movie to come out of Thailand in the last few years, with 2006’s Mercury Man being their Spider-Man influenced film, and the soon to come out Mantera following the Iron Man/Transformers lead. Not that these movies are ripoffs, but rather you can see the influence of Hollywood’s superhero films and the best part is they can play around with it more, take more chances, deliver something you’ve never seen before.
Like motorcycle swordfighting, or a rooftop chase the likes of which have only been seen in comics, a cabal of demon-masked villains, an assassin in a cloak with a huge curved blade and an AK-47. Script-wise the movie is all over the place, with flashbacks and reveals kind of slap-dashed throughout, and we never get a real sense of who we’re supposed to be following through the movie, the hero we don’t get to see until a good chunk in, the young cop who’s responsible for taking him down, or the ex-fiancee of the Prime Minister who’s fighting to stop the Nuclear Power plant from being built. It a mess of politics, love triangles, aimless character development, and a whole bunch of savage, brutal fighting. Gunshots abound, decapitated badguys, battle damage sewn up at the hideout, and a ton of collateral damage.
It delivers as a superhero movie, doing some fun stuff with a killer vigilante, and the brutality of the kills is in response to the monstrous corrupt politicians and gangsters who are very clear cut bad guys. The action is all very solid but never too breathtaking or as daring at it would seem. Eventually, the plot is introduced but drags on endlessly through the second act leading me to only look up when the action cuts in, but then there’s so much thrown in suddenly that it’s hard to figure out what’s going on with who. It’s fun, and definitely a huge step forward from Mercury Man, which was overly ambitious but fell very short of the mark.
One of the better made films from Thailand, with a nice slick look, which it’s nice to see the quality of filmmaking get stepped up a bit. It’s fun to see new superhero characters come to life via the silver screen though, so as long as Thai keeps making them, I’ll keep watching.
I find it odd that they end the film with a random clip of the Red Eagle clinging to a rope ladder from a helicopter, which is the same way that the original actor in the series died while filming. Bad taste or honoring his memory?