This time out, a break from ghosts, horror, ninjas or the like. Every once and a while Neko just wants to sit back, laugh, and giggle like a silly girly-girl and watch some goofy comedy and so this one out of Thailand fits the bill nicely. “Somtum” is your classic “fish-out-of-water” story, with a big lovable doofus, cute Thai urchins, and kickboxing…… lots and lots of kickboxing!! Ahhhh… yes, this one oughta do!
The synopsis for it reads: “Former pro wrestler Nathan Jones plays a timid, down-on-his-luck Australian tourist in Pattaya. While out partying for an evening, Barney (Nathan Jones) gets drugged and has his passport and money stolen by a crooked bar girl. Stuck in Thailand, unable to speak the language or defend himself from local thugs, he is taken in by two young girls, Dokya (Sasisa Jindamanee) and Katen (Nawarat Techarathanaprasert). They cook a spicy Somtum salad for him, which turns him into a big red monster who runs amok and destroys their mom’s restaurant. Barney feels ashamed and promises to pay them back for all the damage he caused during his firey rage, and eventually the girls realize that his unusual reaction may help solve their problems.”
Mmmm… yep. I’d have watched this one a while ago, but it’s one of the newer ones out of Thailand released to their domestic market sans those pesky yet ever so necessary English subtitles. Neko has sorted that all out… having secured some decent fansubs, so what are we waiting for? Lets get to it!
So we start this one out getting acquainted with our hero, Barney Emerald, who got himself a problem. He won a wonderful vacation trip to Pattaya City only to run afoul of a gang of crooks that use a bargirl to get him totally drunk, drug him, and steal him blind… leaving only his khaki’s to hide his shame. Without a passport or a baht to his name, he’s stuck until he can either find his passport again or get the money to make it to Bangkok and his embassy to acquire a new one.
He’s a gentle soul… utterly incapable of fending for himself and it isn’t long before Barney finds himself running for his life after getting mixed up in little pickpocket Katen’s latest bit of trouble with some of Pattaya’s local toughs. They survive only through the help of Katen’s “foster sister” Dokya, a kickboxing expert who arrives just in time to save the day. Katen feels sorry for getting the big lug beaten up and takes him to the local Buddhist temple where the senior Monk takes pity on him and puts him up while he sorts himself out.
Barney is the sort of gigantic guy that scares everybody at first, but kids take to his gentle nature like ducks to water, and soon he’s the proxy “big brother” to all the orphans at the temple. Katen especially is drawn to him, although she likes to believe it’s just her way of making up for the beating he got protecting her and she’s the only one who can translate Thai for him. Her “foster sister”, Dokya and Dokya’s mom invite him to visit their restaurant stand and sample some somtum, a spicy local delicacy. Unfortunately, Barney has an almost freakish reaction to it’s spicy flavor. He turns bright red, like a boiled lobster, and goes berserk, smashing the restaurant to pieces while staggering around trying to find the water to quench the fire in his mouth. After calming down, he realizes what he’s done and vows to help Dokya and Katen get the money to fix the place back up… whatever it takes.
Dokya is an amazingly skilled kickboxing prodigy, but her mom forbids her from fighting, so she decides to teach Barney so he can enter local boxing contests to win the money they need. Barney, though, while big and strong and willing to try, is just too kind hearted and timid to fight well. Katen tricks Dokya into attempting a match, making her think it’s been all sorted out with Mom, and fooling Dokya’s Mom into believing she’s just going to do a “Thai Dancing” exhibition.
There, they run afoul of the gang of toughs she fleeced earlier that now see a chance for a little payback. Also…. Katen makes the mistake of stealing the wrong thing from the wrong people. In this case, a group of international diamond thieves and smugglers. You just know THAT’S gonna be bad news…. Dokya survives a brutal fight up against a male opponent who cheats and punishes her for the gang, even managing to win the fight only to have that victory stolen away by some last minute cheating on behalf of the crooked fight promoter.
Bruised and sore Dokya returns home only to have her Mom freak out when she finds out what they were up to, Katen realizes she really messed up with her lies and the whole family looks like they are on the verge of collapse. This galvanizes Barney into action…. he decides to use the one thing he has to try to set things right… his tremendous strength and stamina. He gets a job hauling fish….. and boy, can he haul fish!! While not the greatest job going, he manages to get the money they need to start rebuilding the restaurant, and even tries to help out with the cooking, becoming a big sensation working a huge oversized mortar and pestle to make somtum by the gallon. Soon “Giant Mortar Som Tum” is the hit of the town and business is better than ever.
But…… The foreign diamond thieves finally figure out who stole the shiny crystal “key” to their secret smuggling container. Yep, it isn’t long before Thai gangsters and some big beefy foreign wrestlers are after our little urchins and their big friend, Barney. They kidnap our heroes and threaten them with all sorts of nasty things before they find the crystal… only to have Dokya swallow it accidentally. Ooops!! If you’ve seen any cartoons with a similar theme… you just know where this is going.
Well naturally, Katen has to start feeding Barney all the somtum she can whip up at a moments notice, and Dokya has to get her kickboxing lil’ butt in gear so we can have a big ol’ fight sequence to end all fight sequences, complete with Barney tearing a small lear jet up into teeny tiny manageable chunks. He gets shot in the process, but after a tearful moment with the kids begging him not to die and then trying to use somtum to revive him, he’s up and moving again. Yay!!
Well… we end things all happy and good. The crooks are all caught, Barney gets his passport back, the restaurant is thriving, and Barney sort of adopts lil’ Katen and takes her to America where his experience has made him a successful Thai cook with his own famous restaurant. Cue the final credits!
“Somtum” isn’t a big deep and meaningful film…. lets get that out front right now. The acting is adequate, but relatively uninspired….. even the fight scenes, while clever at times, lack the truly amazing quality of, say, “Ong-Bak” or “Chocolate”… (although Sasisa Jindamanee is a very skillful Martial Artist who Neko thinks has quite the future in this sort of film if she works at it). But then the point of a film like this is to entertain, and “Somtum” certainly does that. The simple, perhaphs overly simple, plot actually does work. There is enough really good stuff in here to make it worth a evening’s viewing, and Neko’s just a sucker for cute lil’ urchins anyway…. hehehehe!! Nathan Jones probably wont give up his main job playing villians up against the likes of Tony Jaa, but it was nice to see his softer side for a change.
So I give it 3 well enjoyed “Meows” out of 5 for being just the sort of sappy PG rated comedy/ action picture you’ll enjoy without having to make your head hurt figuring out what’s going on or just who the bad guys are. Sometimes that’s not a bad thing to be able to say.
There’s a Trailer…. and naturally Neko’s got it linked here for ya… enjoy!!