Raging Phoenix (2009)

Raging Phoenix
Raging Phoenix

Raging Phoenix (2009)

Raging Phoenix is the best movie ever. It starts with various young Thai women being teleported out into space. Well, that might be what happened. Anyway, they disappear. I think this sort of thing actually happens in Thailand. The disappearing part, not the getting teleported into space part. It’s hard to tell, but this first part is actually relevant later on.

Anyway, next we meet Deu, an angsty young Thai woman who’s probably the next to get teleported away. Why is she angsty? Her mom blew her off and moved to another country, her dad blew her off and died, and she gets kicked out of her band for attacking the audience. In her defense, this particular member of the audience is her boyfriend who blew her off and took a date to the gig. So that’s enough teen angst to fill several movies, and we’re still in the first three minutes. This also becomes relevant, believe it or not. Deu is special, in that she’s played by Jeeja Yanin, the spectacular young star of Chocolate. It’s a little jarring at first that Deu isn’t a badass, because Jeeja herself clearly is. When Deu attacks her boyfriend an informed audience is cringing and waiting for his head to fall off, only to see Deu ineffectively thrash around. Acting! Jeeja actually sells that her character couldn’t punch this dude so hard his spine would explode, even though we know she can. That’s acting to the extreme!

So, angst. Lots of teen angst. Deu at least reacts to this angst in a more adult way than usual. She gets so hammered she can’t see straight, and projectile vomits on anyone who comes near her. As often happens in Thailand, she’s immediately kidnapped by a transvestite. The aforementioned projectile vomiting gives her a chance to escape. She’s then rescued by Sanim, who drunken breakdance fights a bunch of dudes on springy razor blade stilts.

Let me go back a bit. Dudes on crazy, springy stilts with razor edges start chasing Deu. I’m pretty sure the dudes are Henson Creature Shop puppeteers, because I’ve seen them wear rigs like that. Now that that’s more clear, some guy named Sanim shows up and fights them all with breakdancing. Sort of like Gymkata, but actually as awesome as Gymkata thought it was. Deu projectile vomits on him too. With the Henson Creature Shop vanquished, they retire to some other gang’s secret base.

That’s right, they’re so bad ass they regroup and rest at a different enemy base. Here she meets Pigshit and Dogshit (no shit), who proceed to drunken breakdance the hell out of the gang who apparently rightfully owns this place. This sequence actually has some really cool choreography. Deu still isn’t contributing, but has at least run out of vomit. She knows that she must learn the ways of breakdance fighting, if she doesn’t want to get teleported into space.

“You snakehead fish! Go back into your hole!” – Deu. (I am totally calling people snakehead fish from now on.)

Deu holds the booze hostage until they teach her how to drunken breakdance fight. Well, Pigshit and Dogshit teach her how to get drunk, and Sanim teaches her how to fight. Again, there’s some pretty spectacular acting her as Jeeja acts like she’s gawky and uncoordinated during the training sequences. Finally a few montages later she’s a badass and can stop acting like a normal person.

Now that the montages are over we learn a few things. There’s a third member of the gang, Bullshit (seriously). All the members of the gang had women in their lives disappear to these kidnappers. Except for Pighsit, he’s Dogshit’s brother and just came along to help out. All the women kidnapped share a special scent, which can be distilled to make additctive drugs and perfume. They try really hard to make this sound serious, but from now on the kidnappers are smellnappers. Deu has fallen for Sanim, as teenage girls do, but he’s trying to rescue his wife Pie, who was kidnapped on their wedding day. More angst! Most importantly, Deu learns that the secret to drunken breakdance fighting isn’t that being drunk makes you tougher. Getting drunk is just a side-effect of being angsty. Angst is the style’s true power source, which means that as a teenage girl Deu is now practically invincible.

“Being drunk is just the channel that transforms your pain into power.” – Bullshit. (And with a name like that, I believe him.)

The plan all along was to use Deu as bait now that she’s properly bad ass. Sure enough, the smellnappers go for Deu, and drag her back to their freaky even more secret base. They manage to elude Sanim, Dogshit, Pigshit, and Bullshit while they’re at it, so Deu is on her own. The smellnappers wrap her in saran-wrap and drug her up, but she’s had so many foriegn chemicals in her body by this point that it just bounces off. She escapes and busts open some perfume, the smell of which Dogshit can follow back to the smellnapper’s lair. Because Dogshit smells, see?

“What kind of smell am I? Do I make people sex addicts?” – Deu, trying and failing to keep up with the plot.

So the boys bust in to rescue Deu, and the various ‘shits actually get horrifically thrashed in short order. Their angst is not powerful enough. Sanim finds his wife, Pie, and tries to get her out. The smellnappers are led by a female body-builder hopped up on pheromone tears (of course) and named Jaguar London! Eventually Deu is trying to keep both Sanim and Pie from falling down the inevitable bottomless pit. Sanim plays the hero card and dies tragically to save Pie and Deu, and Deu gets totally beaten down like the guys.

Which leads to ‘the scene’. Almost every martial arts movie has ‘the scene’, where the hero has been thrashed, is on the ground, and has to reach deep within himself to find something and pick himself back up again. Deu takes this to a height I have never seen before. While she’s down and being beaten she gets a slideshow of all her angst points from above, plus now Sanim’s tragic death as a box topper. Now a normal hero would stand up at this point, as the music swelled. Deu takes this a step further, and does this Cirque-de-Solil body lift into a handstand, curving her body into a shape like a scorpion tail. Even the bad guys have to step back from this ‘second wind’ with a look that says: “I don’t know what the fuck is happening there, but I want no part of it.” Angst-powered Deu arises and lays down a truly amazing beat down to Jaguar London and her elite guards. Elbows and knees everywhere. It is epic.

And like most good martial arts movies, Raging Phoenix also knows that the movie is over at this point. Take a minute to wrap things up and let us know that Pigshit, Dogshit, and Bullshit lived (we’ve still got the shits!), Pie has recovered, and Deu is a ticking timebomb waiting to blow up in some other villainous gang’s faces. Best, movie, ever!

About the Author

Stark Raving Reviewer Darrell Hayhurst is an acclaimed game designer, best known for the Origin-nominated WWII pulp-sci fi space combat hit "Hard Vacuum" released in 2000 and the follow-up expansion “Hard Vacuum: Science Gone Mad” in 2001 and the “Hard Vacuum: War’s End” three-parter, "Bright Sun Ascending!", "The Highest Ground!" and "Red Rockets Rising!" in 2004.