Tears of the Black Tiger


"I can clearly understand why Miramax buried this gem for so many years: people would find out that Kill Bill "borrowed" its color scheme."

- Ningen

Tears of the Black Tiger (2000)

Director: Wisit Sasanatieng

Writer: Wisit Sasanatieng

Producer: Pracha Maleenont, Brian L. Marcar, Adirek Wattaleela, Nonzee Nimibutr

Cast: Chartchai Ngamsan, Stella Malucchi, Supakorn Kitsuwon, Sombat Metanee

Running Time: 110 min.

Plot: See review below.

Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com


MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S REVIEW: Bravo, Wisit Sasanatieng!!!

Tears of the Black Tiger is a Thai Western flick, a romance-drama and an ultra violent spectacle all rolled into one; But here's the kicker - it was filmed in black and white, then artificially colored, tinted and tweaked to make it look like a classic 1950's classic Thai film.

It's not all retro, though. There are zooms, extreme bullet close-ups, and all sorts of cinematic surprises that pop up out of nowhere.

The result: a catchy piece of innovative entertainment that's years ahead of its time.

You can just feel the creative energy throughout its 110 minute duration. And just when you think you've think the visual novelty has reached its maximum potential, the next scene happens and your appreciation is renewed all over again.

There's something for everyone -- old folks will appreciate it because it looks like a movie of their time. Women will enjoy it because of the heart warming love story. Action fans will dig the pleasant amount of action and explicit violence. And if you're cool enough to let some kids watch it, they'll be glued to the screen in deep fascination.

Keep in mind that a lot of the scenes are intentionally campy, cartoonish and may go over people's heads. Even then, they'll realize how good this film works.

Tears of the Black Tiger is one of those movies that promises everything you see in the trailer and a lot more.

MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S RATING: 8/10 (10/10 if you pause any shot with Stella Malucchi's face)

NINGEN'S REVIEW: The title refers to the name of a bandit who parted ways with his childhood friend Rumpooey, but still holds her close to his heart. The 'tiger comes from a working-class background, while his main squeeze is loaded. Unfortunately, those class differences are what separate the pair for years-until they meet again in college. Dum(the Black Tiger's real name) is initially reluctant to talk to Rumpooey, due to a childhood injury he received protecting her. Unfortunately, he's forced to "reveal" his identity, when she once again gets attacked by the same gang. Adding to that misfortune is that Dum is kicked out of college, and winds up joining a gang himself. The group he's in commits armed robberies. When they're not stealing, they kill squealers. When Dum is forced to kill Rumpooey's new fiance, Captain Kumjorn, he lets him go, but has to contend with a gang that's turned on him, and a police force which doesn't trust him.

I can clearly understand why Miramax buried this gem for so many years: people would find out that Kill Bill "borrowed" its color scheme. While 'Tiger admittedly swipes action from Woo and Lam, too, at least you can tell it's its own film. From the ethnic wedding outfits to the lily ponds, no expense is spared on creating the sense of a different world which isn't quite a traditional Western, but isn't quite a traditional interpretation of Thailand, either. For example, bazookas are included in gun-fights, and churches and Buddhist statues are equally used for ceremonies.

And the back-drops are so gorgeous and full of detail, that even the ones you know are fake look too good for you to care! The music is very emotional and adds to the atmosphere. The camera-work is very slow, but sweet, allowing you to absorb the settings without getting tired of them.

The dialogue is a little bit on the hammy side, because of the way characters drawl when they walk. In addition, the gratuitous violence is casually mixed in with more "quaint" settings. But the drama more than makes up for the campy side of this film. It's just amazing how much depth you get from such intentionally two-dimensional caricatures and scenes. (One of whom has a moustache painted on his face!) It probably helps that-unlike most movies nowadays-there's no subtext, no sub-plots, and the violence isn't milked so much(i.e. shock and awe) that it becomes snuff. You just get normal people who aren't slackers or wise-cracking gangsters, but who nonetheless have important desires and motivations which help them break them out of their molds. I wish more "indie" films were this deep.

Tears of a Black Tiger is an art film, an homage and a cult film rolled into one. But what makes it work where other similar movies would fail [I'm looking at you, Sky Captain and Grindhouse!] is that it doesn't let the genres it's referencing drag down the story. I can "get" the joke and still enjoy what's happening on-screen, not have to worry about whether I "know" what the's director seen in the past.

NINGEN'S RATING: 10/10 for the visuals; 6/10 for originality; 9/10 for the characters; 8/10 total