Fight Film Friday: Elephant White

Posted: April 2, 2011 in fight film friday
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Elephant White
USA, 2011
Genre: Action
91 minutes

A jaded hitman starts down a new path with the help of a teenage girl.

Prachya Pinkaew, best known for his work with Tony Jaa in Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong, directs this American production, set in Bangkok but played out like any other low-budget Hollywood film. Djimon Hounsou is an impressive actor when he wants to be, but seems to be developing a very Nic Cage style of deadpan delivery for the bulk of his lines. Still, it’s nice to see him in a leading role for once. Kevin Bacon gets top billing for his supporting character, a shady arms dealer with possibly the worst on-screen English accent I’ve ever heard. Bacon hams it up in the few scenes he has, sounding much like a strange love-child between Ozzie Osbourne and Jack Sparrow. The rest of the cast is lukewarm at best, mostly forgettable characters with all the depth of a scrap of paper.

Honestly, it was an incredible chore to sit through this movie. The barely coherent plot is full of half-baked twists and ridiculous attempts at greater symbolism. Writer Kevin Bernhardt tries so hard to resonate deeply in regard to the very taboo subject matter of human trafficking in Thailand, but it ultimately fall flat by trying to say too much with too little. The narrative jumps from scene to scene without any sort of rhyme or reason, taking ages to finally pick a pace and follow it to a sloppy climax. It doesn’t help that there isn’t much depth to the story to begin with, aside from some appropriated quasi-religious musings and the obvious theme that the sex trade is wrong.

There was definitely potential for this film to be at least some kind of cult classic, and I suppose that potential is still there, but it seems like it just couldn’t bring enough to the table to be anything more than a bargain bin title. The music and cinematography are unremarkable, getting the job done without any sort of art or meaning behind them. The digital effects are pretty awful, but they’re thankfully limited. The action seems like it could have been very impressive, with innovative choreography based on real Muay Thai techniques. Unfortunately, although getting points for enthusiasm, Hounsou doesn’t ever feel like a very talented stunt performer. Like other parts of the film, the fights just felt incredibly average, lacking the kind of intensity that Jaa or other action stars bring with them. If you see Elephant White for a couple bucks at the supermarket, I suppose it might be worth a shot for laughs, but I think you’re more likely to get snores out of it instead.

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