Set in the 1960s, THE GANGSTER, is based on the true store of a notorious gangster and the origins of the Bangkokian mafia.
We've certainly seen our fair share of gangster films over the years. From 1932's 'Scarface' to Scorsese's award winning film 'The Departed', we have come to love our gangster films. Somewhere along the way, we stopped being frightened of these gangsters and instead started celebrating them, even though these gangsters were known to harm, murder, and steal from hardworking people. The 1983 version of 'Scarface' that starred Al Pacino is of course an excellent movie, but our culture has looked up to the fictional character of Tony Montana, because of his rise to power and riches from literally having nothing by dealing drugs and killing people.
In fact, in Scorsese's film opus 'Goodfellas', we follow Ray Liotta's character Henry Hill, as he grows from a pre-teen to an adult gangster, all the while, we just see the life of the big crime family he is a part of through his eyes. And by the end, we don't celebrate the fact that no more crime is is being committed, but are upset because Hill and his former mafia family don't get to continue in their business. It's an interesting culture point that is still relevant today. Now it is extremely evident thai director Kongkiat Khomsiri is a fan of gangster films, particularly that of Scorsese's 'Goodfellas', because his film 'The Gangster' or 'Antapal' in thai is very similar in story and character.
This film is set from the 1950s through the 1970s in the seedy underbelly of Thailand, and while the violence is brutal and the blood flows freely, at a certain point the film dives into a very melodramatic feel the quickly switches to the violence again with the character development put on the back burner. 'The Gangster' goes through two eras. One is the knife era, which transitions into the gun era, and the two have very different feels to them. The first part of the film has a very interesting approach as Khomsiri has injected documentary style interviews with supposed gangsters discussing what life was life as a "goodfella" back a few decades ago as we follow our lead character named Jod.
This handsome young man is shown growing up in the lifestyle of a gangster, because living in the packed streets of Bangkok doesn't leave you with many options, other than getting beat up or giving the beatings yourself. So in order to protect his family, Jod is an enforcer for a mob and is not afraid to fight when asked to by his boss, as we see clearly in the first scene with an epic knife fight. Jod and his friend and "co-worker" Daeng spend their days watching old Elvis movies and roughing up rival gangs.
Things heat up when a rival gang member named Pu: The Molotov Cocktail is seen raping and brutally murdering the women involved with his rivals. Jod is given a gun that has trouble working to take out Pu, but instead Jod's gun shoots an innocent bystander, and Jod is forever haunted by this person in his dreams. The second part of the film switches into the gun era and has Jod being released from jail after spending a few years behind bars. He now believes he can still work for his former mafia boss, but without using any violence, because he is still scarred from hurting an innocent citizen. By this choice, he makes enemies on both sides and the film becomes more about the drama than it does the plot of the film, as each person is trying to climb the mafia ladder by any means necessary, including betraying your own. There is still some bloody violence to go around, but the film sizzles out as we draw closer to the end.
'The Gangster' has a lot of original ideas that keep you interested in the characters and give you a glimpse of what life was really like back then in Thailand as a gangster. However, midway through the film, the main character does a total 180 switch with his beliefs that leaves his motives and development stalled, leaving for a less than thrilling film. That being said though, there are great moments here that any fan of the gangster genre will be happy with.
'The Gangster' comes with an interesting 1080p HD transfer presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Overall, the film looks quite good, however, it seems that the filmmakers color corrected the movie to give it a gritty look, but in the end, they didn't like it and tried to fix the image. Well, that left room for a few issues throughout the movie in regards to coloring. For the most part, colors look mostly washed out and muted whereas others look a bit brighter than normal.
While some of the colors won't necessarily pop off screen, they do make the film look a bit grittier, which was the filmmakers intentions. Detail is sharp, specifically in closeups that reveal fine facial features such as wrinkles, individual hairs, scars, and makeup blemishes. Wider shots show enough detail as well, but things look a little softer. Black levels are mostly deep and inky and skin textures look natural. There wasn't any video noise, however there were several instances of some banding throughout. Other than that, this video presentation looks good.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix in Thai with English subtitles with an option to choose an English dubbed version. My personal preference is of course the original Thai option, since you will get to hear the original actor's voices and not some silly English dubbed version. Both tracks come is crisp and clear, and are free of any problems such as pops, cracks, or hissing, and is perfectly situated on the center channel. The main problem with this audio mix is that it doesn't have that fill immersive sound at any given time.
Being a gangster action film, I'd expect a certain level of ferocity, but it never delivers here, and it goes for the more subtle and softer approach. It's not a bad thing necessarily, I just prefer a fuller sound here. Sound effects are realistic and balanced well, but rarely do the rear speakers get used, as this tends to be a front heavy audio mix most of the time. The score always adds to the suspense of the film while never drowning out the dialogue as well. This isn't the best audio mix, but it gets the job done.
Making of 'The Gangster (SD, 8 Mins.) - Here is your basic promo feature where the cast and crew discuss making the film with clips of the movie thrown in for good measure.
Behind the Scenes (SD, 2 Mins.) - This all too fast bonus feature is more like a montage of on-set footage of making the movie.
Trailer (SD, 2 Mins.) - Original trailer for the film.
'The Gangster' is a fresh and exciting gangster film for about half of its runtime. The violence is unrelenting, bloody, and vicious. But at a certain point, things fall apart when the film becomes more about examining and reflecting upon the life of crime, rather than actually depicting it. None-the-less, this is still a good film. The video and audio are both passable, but the extras are brief. If you're a fan of the gangster-mafia genre, give this a look first before purchasing.