Zap… Bang…. Ka-powie!! Yep, seems another Thai film has finally made it’s way to Region 1 DVD, and this time it’s the superhero fantasy “The Mercury Man”, just out from Magnolia on their Magnet DVD label. Superheroes aren’t usually my thing, but almost any fantasy film with some martial arts is always welcome…. and as people have told me… “Come on… you’ll watch any crazy Asian film if it’s got subtitles, Miyuki!!” (They’re probably right of course…. but I’ll never admit it… Hehehehehe!!)
The quick synopsis reads: “An ancient Thai legend tells of two holy amulets – Lunar Mercury and Solar Mercury – that will create an indestructible power when combined together. Usama, an international terrorist had studied the secrets of this legend and wants the power of both amulets for his own evil plot. During a prison escape, one of those holy amulets, Solar Mercury becomes accidentally embedded into the body of Chan, an unsuspecting fireman, giving him superhuman strength and powers. As Usama and his terrorists plot to destroy the world, Chan becomes Mercury Man and learns to control and use his new powers to save the world. And so the ultimate battle between Good and Evil begins…”
So… do the Thai’s grasp the whole Superhero thing? Let’s all find out shall we?
We start this one with a group of urchins in Cambodia…. seems one of them has some freaky mind powers… using them to move things around and control peoples minds. Makes you wonder why he’s still doing the whole “street urchin” thing with all those nifty abilities… but hey, that’s not for us to wonder about, because pretty soon a group of thugs show up and kidnap the lil’ guy…. Before we even find out why… we’re off to Nepal!! We know it’s Nepal because there are loads of guys wearing those big woolly coats and fuzzy hats that all the tribesman there wear…. and there are yaks!! Anyway… a caravan of these guys meet up with some suspicious looking travelers looking for the big holy temple that’s somewhere nearby… it’s Nepal… so there’s got to be a temple somewhere around, right? The caravan guys decide to be helpful and show them the way… but something is just not right. Pretty soon we end up a Chinese Military Checkpoint, and find out that the helpful caravan guys were really gun smugglers…. you’d almost feel sorry for the unknown travelers, but it seems they have their own deadly secret as well…… They’re terrorists… and bad ass terrorists at that… killing both the gunrunners and the Chinese troops before going on to the temple to steal the holy amulet stored there…. after a big kickboxing fight of course between the female head of the terror group, Arina (played by Methanee Kingpayom), and the temple’s guardian priestess Punima (played by Jinawipa Kongbua). Gee…. it’s movies like this that always make Neko wish most days she could kickbox too!! The fight ends in a draw, but the terrorists do manage to wound Punima and steal the sacred Moon Amulet before making their escape.
Then it’s off to Bangkok where we meet the hero of the film, Chan (played by Wasan Khantaau), a fireman, who while brave and fearless, isn’t exactly a “team player” as his superiors tell him. Impulsive, and unable to follow orders, his rash actions get him sidelined as the custodian of the equipment room. Even so, he can’t resist the lure of danger and goes along to fight a fire that breaks out at the city’s Central Prison. Little does he expect that the fire was started by the terrorists during their attempt to spring their leader, Usama Ali (played by Arnon Saisangchan). Chan gets stabbed during the fight by the Solar Amulet, and it fuses with his body, much to Usama Ali’s dismay. He had planned to use it and the Moon Amulet to stage a big terror strike against the US Navy during a coming visit to Thailand…..
Here Neko-chan got just a bit confused…. since the terrorists spend the balance of the film trying to get that amulet back, why didn’t they simply drag Chan away in the beginning? Heck… they take time to grab their own dead members, so why not the guy with the magic widget stuck in his chest? This is perhaps the most glaring logical failing of the plot, and definitely the hardest to overlook.
Chan has a terrible dream…. (I think…) in which he meets an ancient Monk who tells his about the amulet… how he has been chosen and now has to learn to calm his mind to control the awesome powers it possesses. Naturally, for him, that’s going to be a problem…. luckily Punima is around to help him.
The film then goes through all the usual motions for the Superhero Genre…. He tries to control his powers. Has to learn what he can about how to use them wisely. His family gets involved as the terrorists finally get their stuff together and decide to threaten them to get Chan to give up the amulet….. He does the whole “Spiderman” thingee fighting some low level local bad guys to help the people of Bangkok and to draw out the killers. (In fact… there are a lot of Spiderman references thrown in here… obviously somebody on the production end wanted to draw comparisons here…) You all know the drill….
We eventually learn of Usama’s ultimate plot…. He wants the amulets to combine and build some sort of Mystical A-bomb that he can stick in a missile and blow up a US Navy ship full of chemical weapons that has been sent to Thailand as part of a goodwill tour during Thailand’s annual “Children’s Day” celebrations….. Ummmm? Say what? This is another of those plot elements that seems crazy and out of place, but hey…. let’s just roll with it….. Anyway, we’re supposed to get the idea that America is responsible for Usama’s family getting killed…. that non-Thai’s are all crazy and probably evil… and that ultimately only righteous Thais will set things right. Again…. that’s OK. Neko’s pretty used to that sort of plot line by now and not offended or anything…. you gotta take what happens in good spirits if you want to watch and enjoy foreign films. Still, I think that it’s interesting to note that “Mercury Man” could have such an anti-American bias and yet get released here in the US with no editing or softening of that element at all…. I’d just like to see similar treatments of films imported to or made in Thailand when the message about them isn’t perhaps so flattering as well….. But enough on that…..
Anyway…. eventually there is a whopping big fight at the terrorist’s secret hideout at a Marine Research facility. Much gunplay, kickboxing, super powers and the like. The action, while not novel or groundbreaking, is adequately done. There’s a showdown between Arina using the Moon Amulet’s icy powers against Chan that hearkens back to stuff right out of “X-Men” or the last “Spiderman” film. Nothing amazing… he doesn’t even stop the missile. That’s the job of a junior member of the Royal Thai Navy and his trusty anti-aircraft gun. But at least the bad guys get their just desserts and all ends well.
I can’t really say “Mercury Man” was all that great a movie experience for me…. The effects were good, especially for a Thai film, the acting OK. I think the most appealing thing was the character of Grace… Chan’s transgendered ladyboy sister (played by Parinya Kiatbusaba from 2003’s “Beautiful Boxer”). She’s played here as a talented designer and model who, while transgendered, is otherwise just a member of Chan’s family. No big deal is made of her gender by anybody…. if you didn’t catch the couple of references made you might never even notice. That was a refreshing experience to see, and scored some real points from this lil’ Catgirl. Even here is the US, such simple equality is hard to see portrayed often.
So… how does Neko rate “Mercury Man” then? In Thailand, my research tells me, this one wasn’t terrifically received by the critics, and I can see why. It’s not a blockbuster film…. no new ground is broken, and despite the attempt to put Superheroes through the “Thai Filter”, it isn’t really all that good a result. The anti-foreign bias is very heavy handed, subtracting from the overall enjoyment too. “Somtum”, a recent film I watched, had a similar “Thai Pride” message, but wasn’t anywhere near as nasty about it. “Mercury Man” could have been done with some of that style….. and I missed the usual comedic elements that usually pepper Thai action….. oh well.
I liked small elements of “Mercury Man”, but only enough to rate 3 “Meows” out of 5. Magnet’s DVD was well done as always… with good PAL to NTSC conversion, excellent subtitles and even a “Making of” feature also subtitled in english. Neko thinks that this one though, will probably only appeal to the real Superhero fans out there… most others will probably not miss much if they don’t catch it any time soon…. Better luck next time for this lil’ Catgirl…..
There’s a Thai Trailer, of course and here it is……