Jun 18, 2012|
Following in the rather large footsteps of 2499 (1998), Nonzee Nimibutr’s celebrated action film, was always going to be tough. But Antapal, which also tackles the story of notorious late-1950s gangster Daeng Bireley, does so admirably by shedding some significantly different light on the whole gangster culture of the time.
Helmed by Suphanahong Award-winning director Kongkiat Khomsiri, the highly-stylized film is set one year later than 2499 and opens with Daeng (Somchai Kemgald) asking his best mate George (Krissada Sukosol Clapp) to join a new gang that will run the rule over the illegal bars and casinos belonging to Hea Lor. But it’s not long before hard-headed gang member Pu begins undermining Daeng’s leadership and attempts to wipe out his followers. When Daeng decides to escape the bloodshed by becoming a monk, George vows to deal with Pu by himself.
Not long after, Bangkok comes under the rule of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, who proposes to wipe out the entrenched gangster culture, and George is briefly imprisoned. On his release, he learns that Daeng and Pu are both dead. He returns to work for Hea Lor where he meets the new generation of gangsters, led by Thong and Peak, who idolize and wish to emulate him. But when the old head expresses a desire to put an end to the senseless killings, he loses the youngsters’ respect and Thong turns to O-Tee (Frank Pachon), a new member who subscribes to a very different code of morality. And that’s the crux of the film: without over-moralizing, it delves into the changing face of the Thai gangster in a society that is itself coming to grips with rapid progress.
Generational change is central to this representation. The youths all want to be like James Dean or Elvis Presley in appearance—and reckless in their attitudes. While it’s unfortunate that Somchai’s slightly shallow portrayal of Daeng Bireley is unable to measure up to Tik Jetsadaporn’s masterful turn in 2499, Krisada is brilliant throughout in what quickly grows to be the lead role, helping to strip away the image of the classic gangster with his cool, calm and collected demeanor. Even some poor CG and an uncomfortable ghost scene can’t detract too much from the overall mood. Antapal sidesteps any remake pitfalls to be one of this year’s must-watch action flicks—and one that’s not afraid to shoot straight in its portrayal of 1950s Thailand.