Monday, September 08, 2008

In The Shadow of the Naga

Nasorn Panungkasiri | 2008 | 94 mins | Thailand

At first glance, the description of In The Shadow of the Naga makes it sound a lot like the Martin Lawrence joint Blue Streak. Somewhat unfortunately though, that's where the similarities end.

A trio of criminals - Parn, Por and Singh - return to the spot where one of them dumped their stash a few months before, only to find that a Buddhist temple has been rather hurriedly erected on the spot. The solution is obvious: they must coerce the elder monk into ordaining them so that they can stay in the nearby monastery while they dig for their money.

Parn and Singh are charismatic and masculine, dangerous criminals who wouldn't hesitate to besmirch the good name of the monkhood to get their way. Por, in contrast, is plagued with guilt over what they are doing and opts not to get ordained with his co-conspirators. While Por seeks some absolution in Buddhism, Parn and Singh become increasingly frustrated by the difficulties of finding their money. When Singh's sassy prostitute wife intrudes upon the scene, the undercurrents of tension and violence threaten to explode.

Parts of the plot of In the Shadow of the Naga are a bit difficult to piece together, but the moral lessons are pretty clear. Shady dealings and shocking secrets are hinted at, but so obscurely that by the dramatic climax it's a bit difficult to know who the good guys and bad guys really are. Interesting, but maybe not actually superior to Blue Streak.

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