Power Kids (DVD)

Where are Alex, Julie, Jack and Katie?

Here’s a cinematic oddity from Thailand. Power Kids mixes family-friendly sentimentality with R-rated action movie violence. It’s like the slapstick of those 3 Ninjas movies combined with the over-the-top bloodletting of Commando.

Woon is a kid living with a handful of other kids at a school for Muay Thai boxers. He has a severe heart condition and might not live much longer. The good news is that a heart for a transplant just became available at a nearby hospital. The bad news is that the hospital has just been taken over by Uzi-toting terrorists, who are holding an ambassador hostage. Woon’s four pre-adolescent buddies take some initiative and sneak into the place, punching and kicking their way through wave after wave of heavily-armed thugs to bring back the heart for their pint-sized pal.

Imagine the hospital siege from Hard Boiled but with four little kids in place of Chow Yun-fat and you’ve got a sense of the tone in Power Kids. These mini-Tequilas aren’t carrying guns, but who needs guns when they’ve got gravity defying martial arts righteousness? There’s no denying these four kids—two boys and two girls—have the skills. They kick, punch, jump, flip, and do that Muay Thai knee-to-your-opponent’s-chest move with true action hero style.

The fighting is great. The rest of the movie? Not as great. I’m guessing the kids were cast for their amazing athletic abilities, and not so much for their acting. When they aren’t bashing an adult’s face in, they’re pretty bland. This is too bad, because we get a lot of scenes establishing their friendship with poor little Woon. This is a necessity, of course, because we the audience have to believe that the kids care about Woon so much that they’d go to death-defying lengths to save him. The first half of the movie has them scrounging money to buy Woon a remote control car he wants, and then entering him in a race with the car, just to make the little guy happy. In terms of plot structure, there’s nothing wrong with these scenes. It’s just that these moments of humor and/or heartwarmingness are slow and dry, and I wished as much care had gone into this part of the story as there was for the butt-kicking.

Also, despite the protagonists’ ages, there’s no shortage of bloody violence. Occasional bursts of gunfire between the terrorists and the cops result in gaping wounds, and the kids themselves get banged up pretty good, walking out of the finale covered with cuts and bruises. OK, it’s an action movie, so that’s to be expected if the kids are doing the Die Hard thing. Another form of violence rears its ugly head, one that might alarm parents even more. There are two scenes in which the kids’ Muay Thai teacher whips them. This is played for laughs, not in a slapstick way or a mean-spirited way, but in a low key “slice of life” way. I kept waiting for the kids to get some sort of comeuppance against the mean teacher, but it never happened. I know this is a cultural differences thing, but it will likely leave a lot of viewers feeling uncomfortable instead of amused.

There are no complaints about the video and sound on this DVD. The widescreen picture is clean and clear, with little to no defects. The audio simply rocks. During the machine gun fire, the disc uses all five speakers so well that it’s like the bullets really are flying around the room. A short featurette talks about the origins of the film (this cheesy flick was three years in the making?!?) and a closer look at some of the more elaborate stunts. A second extra consists of raw behind-the-scenes footage from shooting, again with an emphasis on the stunts and fight choreography.

Power Kids is a novelty item. It’s great fun watching these kids in action, but the movie built around that gimmick isn’t nearly as exciting. Make it a rental.

The Verdict

Muay Thai!

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