Film: Edge Of The Empire **
UK Release date: Out Now
Running time: 114 mins
Director: Nirattisai Kaljareuk
Starring: Ad Carabao, Alisa Sontirod, Arnut Rapanit, Dilok Thongwattana
Format: DVD & Blu-ray
Reviewer: Adam Wing
Nirattisai Kaljareuk directs this Thai historical action epic based on the award winning 1973 novel by Sanya Pholprasit. Set in southern Mongolia over 1000 years ago, the film tells the story of the uprising of the Thai people against the mighty Han Empire that enslaved and oppressed them for centuries.
Action and adventure are the order of the day here, with a huge slice of patriotism thrown in for good measure. The fight scenes are plentiful, but they bring with them high expectation that is rarely matched. The stunt choreography fails to ignite and the choppy editing style comes on far too frequently. Thai action directors are well known for embracing the fluidity of their stars, but the action sequences here are somewhat disappointing, feeling more at home in a Hollywood movie imitating true art. It’s the one area of expertise that Thai cinema never fails to embrace, and yet with Empire it fails consistently to distinguish itself from the crowd.
The low production values are evident in key sequences, most notably the colourful backdrops in recurring battle scenes. Occasionally the CGI works really well, but some of the effects work is over ambitious to say the least. It’s all very vibrant, reminiscent in parts of Yimou Zhang’s action epic Hero, but any attempts at replicating the films wonder are found wanting. You can’t fault Nirattisai Kaljareuk for effort, but had he aimed a little lower, the overall impression would have been less distracting and far more believable.
Performances are a mixed bag and that’s me being polite, but at least the comedy goofiness is kept to a minimum. Thai movies are often blessed with a quirky sense of humour that can prove diverting, but this being a depiction of historical events, any attempts at oddball eccentricity are kept to a minimum. Or should I say, just so long as you ignore the chief bad guy of the piece.
Belonging in a pantomime universe far removed from the gritty battlefield depicted here, he really is one chin stroke away from pure evil. He’s the kind of guy who throws women into boiling hot cauldrons just to make a point, and he’s not opposed to raping peasants either. Every line he delivers is followed by a sinister cackle - in fact, I was half expecting Austin Powers and Mini-Me to show up in a cow costume.
Edge of the Empire brings with it the requisite amount of justice, honour and betrayal. There’s obligatory romance too, arresting turns from its female stars, and more than enough action to compensate for any lapses in genuine quality. There’s no denying that it drags its heals in places, and there’s nothing here that we haven’t seen before, but if you’re in desperate need of action overload you could do far worse. Edge of the Empire doesn’t compare favourably to similar eastern epics, often mistaken ambition for entertainment, but occasionally it hits the spot.
The pantomime villainy is a standout, as is the excessive gore, but there’s little else to recommend above bog-standard action adventure. If nothing else, Edge of the Empire proves that even Thailand can get it wrong from time to time.