Chocolate (2008)

Chocolate

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Way to go!

It’s not a secret that I’m not a huge fan of foreign films. For the most part, I avoid them because I know my review will be at least a little biased, if not a lot. I just don’t like reading a movie versus watching it. I am more apt, however, to watch a foreign film if it is martial arts. More action, less dialogue, and no one can do a martial arts film like the Asians. Serious dedication is put into these films that Americans could never even dream to attempt. That being said, there was one film that has been on my radar for years to check out, and that was Chocolate. You know those autistic savant children that can learn a musical instrument after hearing one song a single time, well take that basic idea and transform it into martial arts instead. That’s what this film is about, and boy does it have the right idea.

Now, the beginning of this flick is very melodramatic and confusing. I personally had to look up what was happening, because it didn’t make a lot of sense to me. If I got this right, there is a girl named Zin who likes bad boys. This Zin dated one crime lord, and then started dating another, and so this whole war between the rival gangs began and she escaped it all and had her daughter, Zen. Zen is autistic, and throughout life, started getting interested in martial arts. She watched neighbors practice outside, and watched some TV shows and movies featuring the art. Well, as savants normally do, she was able to mimic these moves and supply them in the real world to protect herself. This is more or less the first half hour to forty-five minutes of the film, and it’s honestly kind of slow and boring because it really wants to hone in on that character development.

Later in life, Zen realized that her mother was dying of cancer, and she needed to collect money to pay for the medical bills. Her mother used to be a money lender in her crime lord days, and people owed her money still. Zen then takes this excellent opportunity to ask for that money back…with a bit of a kick if they say no (which they do). Zen’s violence makes waves and comes back to the crime lord at the top, and that’s when things start escalating.

First off, I want to point out that I am satisfied. The premise to this film is nothing less than brilliant. It even makes sense. Why can’t savants do this in real life? If they can apply the same to music, why not martial arts, because both are an art form. Zen is practically a superhero. Her superpower is studying and applying amazing feats, and her weakness is the common house fly. That mixed with the idea that this could really happen makes everything that much more intriguing; even inspiring to a degree.

The fight scenes had a classic feel to them in the sense of stereotypical kung-fu movies, but what differed was this film had a lot of emotion behind everything. There was a lot of plot, to which I was actually impressed. Movies like this don’t usually focus so much on plot and character development, just the fighting. This time around, they did both, and for the most part it really was magnificent…but there were some flaws. First of all, the beginning really is slow. I like the character development and backstory, but I don’t think it was executed very well because I was just confused. Now that I know what it is, I can appreciate it, but I had no idea what was going on. Also, the character development is so important in this film that it directly mixes with the story development. What I mean, is that the dumb choices that one person makes is practically contagious. It spreads.

There is no explanation to why the mom wants to date crime lords. It’s like West Side Story or something. Then, Zen decides the one way to get her mom’s money back is to take it from people who owe her, even though they are dangerous. I understand that without that…it would be nothing – therefore – character development is essential to everything else. What happens, though, when you ask yourself…why couldn’t she get the money through a different route? The only real answer is because the movie would suck. It’s just these little things that shouldn’t be so important…are.

Beyond that, some of the acting could have been tremendously done better. There could have been further explanation to significance of certain things in the film like the clear beads that it kept going back to. There should have been further focus on the idea behind everything – the savant thing. Initially, there was supposed to be side-by-side comparisons for her and Bruce Lee, but they had copyright issues. I just wanted to have more reminders that she’s not a black belt, she is an autistic child that learns through sight. They have some, yes, but I wanted more and a little more constant than what we get.

I will say that the end credits are amazing. Dedication ten-fold as it documents the real injuries sustained by the actors on set. You really see that this stuff isn’t fake a lot of the time. People are genuinely getting hurt, cut open, breaking bones…it just makes it that much more real, and suddenly you like the movie even more.

The Good:
I can’t say it enough…the premise! They really need to make an American version of this film, because I truly believe we can really benefit off of this story. Hire as many Asians as you want to make it feel as real, but our production values and abilities are off the charts.

The Bad:
Some of the quality wasn’t the best; some of Zen’s repetitious begging for money can get annoying; if you’re like me, you might have trouble keeping track of the story (especially in the beginning). You also might have trouble keeping track of what everyone is saying 100% of the time.

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