Chocolate, the 2008 Thai action film brought to us by the directorial genius of Prachya Pinkaew, is a touching kung fu fairy tale about an autistic girl and her best friend trying to help her gravely ill mother. Pinkaew is more well-known to American audiences as the man who helmed Ong-Bak: the Thai Warrior and The Protector (a.k.a."Dude, Where’s My Elephant?") with the fantastic Tony Jaa . Like his previous films, it feels like there’s an underlying theme of mysticism woven into an intricate and bloody tapestry of glorious violence.
Through the magic of kung fu, the heroine in Chocolate conquers insurmountable odds and learns the true meaning of love and family...while kicking a whole lot of lotta ass. This is a Thai action film, after all. Here the main rules are they don't pull their punches, and if your cast escapes filming uninjured, you’ve done something wrong.
Once upon a time, Zin (Ammara Siripong) fell in love with Masashi (Hiroshi Abe). Star-crossed lovers, she was the girlfriend of Thai gangster,"No. 8" (Pongpat Wachirabunjong), and he was a Yakuza boss. The tense opening scene establishes the animosity between these two factions as both guns and lines are drawn. Once that’s out of the way, the audience gets to watch a steamy montage where Zin and Masashi fall deeper in lust/love with each other...you know, like you do when you’re badasses on opposing sides of a gang war.
Ultimately, this comes to a head during a Compton-style drive-by where Zin jumps out of the car to get between the bullets and her beloved. Not to be outdone in the drama department, No. 8 literally shoots himself in the foot as a statement to Zin that this romance BS with Masashi can’t continue. After a night of hot sex, Zin sends Masashi packing back to Japan for their own good.
More montages find Zin pregnant, and the little girl, Zen, is a “special child.” Trying to tell the father ends with a painful meeting with No. 8, so like any good mother would, she pulls up stakes and moves herself and her little girl next door to a Muay-Thai martial arts school where becomes enraptured by the movements of the students, and develops her superpower: perfect muscle memory.
Years later, Zen (Yanin Mitananda) and her best friend, Moom (Taphon Phopwandee), are earning money performing stupid human tricks to pay for Zin’s cancer treatments. They stumble across mom’s old gang debt book and decide to collect. Asses get thoroughly kicked in Zen’s path to collect, finally leading up to a battle with No. 8 and his transvestite hooker army.
Mitananda really shines as Zen, with all of her autistic quirks, bad-assery, and single-minded devotion to her mother. The rest of the cast is fantastic as well, including the scene-chewing performance Dechawut Chuntakaro, leader of No. 8’s transvestite hooker army. All in all, Chocolate is a delicious, heart-warming film with a fairy tale ending that’s just a little perkier than a Shakespearean tragedy, but totally appropriate and worth it.