The Gangster Blu-ray Review
Teenagers and like-minded twentysomethings gather at the movie theater, puffing away at cigarettes, sporting hip shades and slicking back their hair like all the girls like it. They’re there to kill the night, and dance along with the characters and admire their favorite movie stars. In the back room, self-proclaimed “blood brothers” Piak (Krissada Suphapprom) and Tong (Sakarin Suthamsamai), seek to one day be more famous than Daeng.
But Daeng (Somchai Kemglad, 2008’s IN THE SHADOW OF NAGA) isn’t one of their celluloid heroes. He runs one of the most profitable and feared gangs in Old City, a section of Bangkok, Thailand where criminals and underground businesses (from horse betting to drug smuggling) rule. His closest companion is Jod (Krisada Sukosol Clapp, who was nominated for Best Actor at the Thailand National Film Association Awards), who may have more years and experience than Daeng, but grows loyal when he saves him from a vicious beating.
THE GANGSTER (ANTAPAL) traces Thailand’s gangster days from the 1950s into the 1960s. In that time, gangs fade, people try to go straight, low-level thugs become major figures, and the “age of knives” disappears as guns emerge, allowing threats to be that much more serious and the streets to be that much bloodier.
THE GANGSTER is indeed a violent movie, as such a movie should be. There are moments when it’s borderline brutal: take the early knife fight where the victim’s blood splatters on the camera lens, forcing the viewer to be a part of the action; or the scene where a crab claw lands in an enemy’s neck and he’s then bludgeoned to death with a hammer generally used to open shells, not skulls; or the shocking scene where a hoodlum named Pu rightfully earns the nickname “the Molotov Cocktail.”
Any modern movie featuring serious gangsters almost always calls to mind the works of Martin Scorsese. But writer/director Kongkiat Khomsiri (2010’s SLICE, which won him Best Director at TNFAAs) clearly wants to tell the story his way, even if passing nods the New York filmmaker (a cornfield beating calls to mind CASINO; one character wields a gun and asks, “You talkin’ to me?”) might suggest otherwise. The cinematography (by Sayomphu Mukdeeprom) is also more chaotic than, say, the slickness of Michael Ballhaus’ work, and the usage of handheld cameras instead of Steadicam does a lot to enhance the realism and fight scenes of the movie. Other contributions to that feeling include the addition of talking-head interviews that make the movie feel like part-documentary, as well as Thana Mekha-amput’s art direction and Chatchay Chaiyon’s costume design, both of which appear to remain faithful to the period.
THE GANGSTER does slip up in its second part, where the movie shows more clichéd elements, like the idea of the tough guy being pulled back into the criminal world after trying to get clean. Fortunately, Krisada Sukosol Clapp’s performance as Jod is a strong and layered one that does a lot to bring dimension to a character that could have easily been thin.
THE GANGSTER BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This high-definition transfer of THE GANGSTER brings out so many details in the fine set design and costumes while maintaining the level of uncleanliness found in the picture.
Audio: Thai 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The Thai dialogue is clear throughout, but it’s the more action-oriented sequences (especially the gunfights) that put the speakers to work.
Making of THE GANGSTER (7:58): This featurette uses interviews with the cast/crew and clips to offer a look at the themes, story and characters of THE GANGSTER.
Behind the Scenes (1:15) offers a brief compilation of on-set footage.