Grocery shopping is a necessary part of adult life. I may not particularly enjoy it but I feel compelled to do it so that I may continue to survive and not starve to death. Power Kids, the Thai kids action movie, gave me a similar feeling. I felt that I needed to finish watching the film because the Muay Thai martial arts sequences were so cool that I felt I’d be doing my soul a disservice if I stopped.
The film’s premise sounds like the best movie you’ve never seen. The basic idea is that a bunch of orphans, who happen to be expert Muay Thai boxers, get trapped in a hospital when a terrorist group holds them hostage. It sounds amazing, right? It sounds like it should be Ong-Bak meets 3 Ninjas.
You don’t end up with Ong-Bak meets 3 Ninjas. I dearly, dearly wish that I could sit here and tell you that it’s the Monster Squad of this generation, but it’s not.
It’s slow moving, poorly paced, and has ill-defined characters. It has many similarities to Monster Squad, one of the greatest movies ever made, in my opinion, but it falls very short of the greatness that is Fred Dekker’s masterpiece.
I first knew something was off when the movie started with a freeze frame utilizing, character spotlighting opening credits. That’s right, the flick starts like a crappy sitcom from 1993. Sure, the kids are kicking things but they’re laughing and smiling in that ‘did I do that?’ kind of way.
We quickly move to paper-thin character development and training sequences which the orphanage manager/father figure/ I’m not really sure what his relationship with the kids teaches them all various Muay Thai moves and combos. It’s quickly established that one of the kids, the youngest one, is deathly sick with a heart condition. The we continue to waste twenty minutes on lame attempts at making us care about the kids and their strange Muay Thai filled life.
Eventually, a Chinese tourist comes to the orphanage, which apparently has a general store attached to it, wanting to learn Muay Thai from Master-Daycare-Dude-who-probably-shouldn’t-be-teaching-kids-deadly-muy Thai. One of the kids, the greasy haired rambunctious one, gets the bright idea to teach this tourist in exchange for some money. They have some cute training sequences when things go awry. A drunk American, who is in the movie for no other reason than to speak English to make the film more marketable to American audiences, picks a fight with the Chinese tourist, who is half his size and double his age. The kids intervene and a genuinely cool fight scene ensues.
And this is the reason that I kept watching. The fighting in this sequence is both humorous and badass. It has all the best elements of a Tony Jaa movie but it’s got little kids flipping around, which is awesome. Unlike American films with similar premises, the antagonists actually punch the little kids, too. We’re not talking about Hit-Girl logic, either. These kids aren’t super powered plot-driving forces, they’re just little kids who know how to use momentum, gravity, and their kneecaps.
Sadly, after our team of merry 6th graders defeat the vile American they don’t really do anything for the next two hours. Sure, they steal some money to get I-have-a-heart-problem kid a nice toy that he wants and they have an overly elaborate remote control car racing sequence against a rival band of merry 6th graders, but the film doesn’t take off. It just idles until the last act, where the actual hospital hostage sequence takes place.
The terrorists are arguably the best part of the film. The head terrorist is so cartoonishly good-looking they had to give him a latex scar appliance just to make it believable that he was human.
Most of the hostages in the hospital stuff falls flat. The kids do some interesting acrobatics and the terrorists are delightfully stereotypical but the film fails to recapture the magic of the Drunken American fight.
The films final fight is the only thing that comes anywhere close to being cool. The main girl and main boy, whose names I’m not even close to remembering, duke it out with the main cartoonishly good-looking terrorist in a knock down drag out, I’m-gonna-punch-you-in-the-face-with-my-kneecap fight that could give Tony Jaa a run for his money. But that’s too little, too late.
The final ‘twist’ in the flick is also too little, too late. I found myself desperately wanting the movie to be over. I enjoyed the two or three sequences immensely, but the rest of the film is near trash.
Hopefully, those kids go on to be huge superstars because most of them could kick some real ass. However, that doesn’t make a good movie. Maybe someone who really knows how to make a hardcore action movie will snatch a few of these kids and make a better movie than Power Kids because the kids in the move have chops. They could have been utilized better. The lackluster end result is not their fault, which is an exceedingly rare statement to make about a film primarily staring children between the ages of 9 and 14.
Better luck next time, Power Kids. Better luck next time.