During his 19 years as an executioner in Bang Kwang Central Prison, Chavoret Jaruboon dispatched a total of 55 inmates by submachine gun. After retirement, he then wrote The Last Executioner, a memoir that earned him international recognition. Now in Tom Waller’s film biopic of the same name, the prolific executioner is portrayed by one of the most prolific Thai stars of recent times, Vithaya Pansringarm (Only God Forgives), who just won Best Actor at the 17th Shanghai International Film Festival for this role.
The film starts with a retired Chavoret Jaruboon, the way most of us remember him, about to make an appearance on a TV show. Then it jumps back to the 60s when Chaovaret is a guitarist in a rock n’ roll band. He then meets his future wife (Penpak Sirikul) and they hit it off almost immediately. They have a baby together, and consequently the household bills mount. Chaovaret lands a job as a prison guard at Bang Kwan Central Prison, leaving his rock n’ roll dream behind. At work he is briefly bullied and confronted by a few corrupt officers, but after a series of incidents, he takes up the better-paid job of executioner. He carries out the job with professionalism and no little support from his family. But in times of exhaustion, he seeks help from a monk, beer and his guitar.
Chaovaret’s conscience is mainly portrayed through David Asavanont’s devil cameo that pops up to mock our executioner with a few one-liners. His appearance adds an exotic touch to the movie, but does very little to elaborate on Chaovaret’s moral dilemma.
Written by Don Linder based on recollections from Chavoret’s wife and children, as well as his former bandmates—and not Chaovaret’s autobiography—the film largely attempts to narrate the executioner’s life event by event, almost falling into the same trap Joshua Michael Stern’s Jobs did last year. There are some time jumps, some very nice cinematography and a few surreal touches, but Tom Waller’s real saviors are the two leads, Vithaya and Penpak, who do a great job in convincing us of their domestic if sometimes dramatic romance.
Tom Waller’s discreet biopic eventually comes through, not by seriously delving into the moral struggles of a man who gunned down 55 death-row convicts in 19 years, but more as a portrait of an ordinary family guy with an extraordinary yet underpaid job.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014