Thursday, 1 September 2011

Film Review: Elephant White

Curtie Church (Hounsou) is a mercenary hired by a grieving father to take on the gang who cajoled his daughter into a life of drugs and prostitution. With the help of arms dealer Jimmy the Brit (Bacon), Curtie wages a one man war on the Thai sex-trafficking gang, curiously aided by a mysterious young girl named Mae (Pitakporntrakul).

Ostensibly this should be an action film and yet Elephant White doesn't quite know what it wants to be. It tries to inject airy fairy spirituality into proceedings against a backdrop of big guns and death. It also tries to get in on the creepy little asian ghost girl thing that's been done to death recently in some bizarre and poorly executed Sixth Sense attempt at a twist. The moral of the tale, if you can detect such a thing in between all the shooting and explosions, is that human-trafficking and prostitution is bad. This is somehow compounded by facts patronisingly presented in a loosely linked manner at the end of the movie. The only thing that actually sprung to mind by the end of it all was "Christ, there's a lot of goons for hire in Bangkok!". Indeed, the body count in Elephant White is phenomenal. A bad guy dies, only for two to take his place! In all, everything's just a little bit of a cluster fuck here.

The characters don't fair much better either. Curtie's motivations for what he does are rather unclear, compounded by an annoyingly undeveloped backstory. It is touched upon with mentions of a shady past at an unnamed agency with Jimmy the Brit, but it is never extrapolated upon and frustratingly skirted over. There's no real coherency as to why he decides to wage a one-man war on Bangkok's underworld. One minute it's a pious crusade to rid the city of evil, the next it's because a mysterious dude in a hotel room pays him top dollar. When trying to explain to his spiritual aid - a young girl who just appears out of nowhere and follows him around for no reason - why he's killing people, he says because it's the right thing to do, also adding that it pays. This also from a man who otherwise appears to show a bleak, nihilistic view of the world. Even if Curtie was designed to be a walking contradiction, Hounsou plays him like a robot anyway so none of it comes off in a believable manner. He has absolutely no poise and while he tries to be intense, it actually just looks like he's trying to squeeze a poo out. Bacon's ambiguously motivated weapons dealer on the other hand is just odd. Indeed, he appears a little too enthusiastic putting on a British accent and while he's most certainly the best thing about Elephant White, it's still a bit of a drop when compared to his recent fantastic performances in Super and X-Men: First Class.

It's quite easy to see why Elephant White was a straight to DVD release. It's not an utterly abysmal film in the sense that it is just about passable in a Channel 5 movies kind of way, but you won't come back to it again. Part action, part spirituality, part ghost story, part serious political point, all mess.