When Brian asked me to review this movie, I had never heard of it and I wasn’t even sure if it was an animated movie or live action. When it arrived in the mail I saw that it was produced by Prachya Pinkaew, who brought us Ong Bak and The Protector starring the great Tony Jaa (who has now retired from movies to become a monk), so my interest in it increased. That is, until I watched it. Power Kids or 5 Huajai Hero as it was originally titled, is a strange hybrid that starts off as a movie for children but quickly becomes something else entirely which explains the “R” rating it received. I don’t think the violence in the movie necessarily deserved that rating but I believe it received that rating because most parents would see the title and cover and believe that would be a good movie for kids. This may be a cultural difference between Thailand and the U.S. but I don’t think most parents would want their children to see this movie despite it being a movie about kids. But then again, I wouldn’t recommend any parents to see this either. Let me tell you why…
If you ever wondered what it would look like to cross Home Alone with Die Hard this is that movie only with more kids, terrible acting, and a clichéd script that I’m convinced was created by randomly picking plot devices from a hat. They should have just called this movie Thai Hard and been done with it. This movie is also bursting at the seams with unfortunate stereotypes whether it’s the gruff teacher who canes his wards but really cares for them, to the skinny old man that foolishly wants to learn Muay Thai and is taught by the kids, and of course the big, loud, drunk American that gets his ass beat by a bunch of kids. I won’t even go into the Rebel leaders who were cardboard cutouts. Of course, one of them has a change of heart at the end (spoiler alert: literally ha ha ha!) and it’s hard to even write a serious review of a movie that had no respect for itself or its audience. But I’ll try to set an example and finish this review for our audience.
I’m a big fan of Muay Thai action movies and I think Tony Jaa is this generation’s Bruce Lee, but unfortunately, he is not in this movie although he is mentioned in the trailer for this to entice people to see it. Instead, this movie focuses on a bunch of kids who are mostly orphans who are being taken care of by “Uncle” although it’s never really made clear exactly why they are there and if it’s an orphanage or just a martial arts school. Honestly though, it really doesn’t matter. In between getting caned daily, these kids are learning Muay Thai for self-defense but they don’t hesitate to use those skills on drunk bullies that are foolish enough to fight small children. The fight scenes are serviceable but the movie is constantly undercut by its own script and direction. For example, in the scene where the 6’4 muscle-bound man who weighs 215 pounds is beaten senseless by 5th graders, this giant of a man attempts to kick a child but instead he kicks a stack of hidden weights. To mine this vein of comedy gold, we watch as it takes him several seconds of wondering what he kicked, then several more as he lifts the cover off the weights, only then (and this is the where true genius comes in), after about 10 seconds total does he realize he hurt himself! Don’t worry everyone; the toes that actually kicked the weights aren’t hurt, but inexplicably his shins are! It’s that kind of quality filmmaking that you can look forward to in this movie.
I realize that there are a lot of people that enjoy these types of performances where everyone overacts and spends the entire movie either mugging for the camera or embracing their assigned stereotype but I’m not one of them. This isn’t a slight on the kids in the movie either, as they are the best thing about the movie. Just like Home Alone, this is a film universe where all of the adults are morons and only the kids can save the day. The only difference is that these kids know kung fu and they aren’t afraid to use it. The random script generator decided that these kids band together to get help get the youngest boy in their group a replacement heart from another kid that conveniently died when he needed to. The catch is that the replacement heart is in a hospital overrun by terrorist rebels and only small children can infiltrate it to retrieve the heart. That’s right…it’s Die Hard in a Hospital! Except this time, it’s four small unarmed John McClanes against a group of well-armed men who have taken hostages. I wanted to hear one of them say, “I’m too young for this shit!” but alas, it did not happen.
This is such a rip off of Die Hard they even had a scene of two children swinging from the rooftop to crash into a window feet-first. It’s this part of the movie that got it it’s “R” rating as many people are machine gunned and killed left and right while the intrepid kids keep doing the same cartwheel kicks over and over because once you open up a can of whup-ass there’s no stopping until it’s over. This movie is shameless, exploitive, campy, and so bad that it’s unintentionally funny. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then by all means try this movie out but don’t show this to your kids thinking that this is a Power Rangers movie.
This movies was obviously low budget and most likely filmed on low grade film so although this is high definition, it looks washed out and I don’t think they even did any color correction at all. The colors are muted and there is no fine detail evident even in close ups. Long range detail is even worse but on the plus side there doesn’t appear to be a lot of DNR or compression effects. I think that this is about as good a picture as this movie can get based on the film stock used for the movie. Being a low budget movie, you can’t expect too much in this department even when it’s on Blu-ray.
The audio quality is equal to the video quality as it is low budget but serviceable. There are two lossless audio tracks one being the dubbed version and the other the original Thai track and if you want a good laugh listen to the dubbed version. I’ve already stated my thoughts on the cast’s overacting but whoever they used to do the dubbed version decided those efforts weren’t enough and in an attempt to top it, they ingested tons of sugar, coffee, and possibly speed before recording their tracks. You’ve got to hear it to believe it. Dialogue on the dubbed track was clear but I kept wondering if this movie was secretly supposed to be like Kung Pow. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track does the bare minimum but that’s about it. The soundtrack occasionally used the rear speakers to create a surround effect but it was mixed really low and wasn’t very effective.
As with all of the other features on this disc, expectations shouldn’t be too high as far as special features go. There are two extras on this disc:
The Making of Power Kids – A basic documentary that features the director and the kids talking about the movie.
Behind the Scenes Footage – A look at the stunts, injuries, and outtakes from the film.
I probably should cut this film more slack as it had production issues (filming started in 2005 with a different director until the two child leads were injured and another director was brought in later to finish the film), it obviously has a low budget, and the kid’s fighting skills aren’t too bad, but I just can’t get over the acting, the script, the direction, and especially the dubbed voices. This is a terrible movie full of clichés, stereotypes, overly cloying mawkishness, and unintentional humor from poor acting and a randomly generated script. This is a movie that would be perfect for Mystery Science Theater 3000 to take a whack at. It’s too bad that this Blu-ray doesn’t give you the ability to create your own commentary track like Death Race did because there would be a lot of hilarious results if it did. Watch at your own risk but keep the kids away until you’ve survived it and can decide whether or not you want them to see it.