Sunday, May 23, 2010


Gimme a black comedy where bodies stack up faster than they can reasonably be disposed of. Now make it in Thailand and populate it with a cast of hilariously quirky characters. And, if you must, give it a dumb-ass title.

That film is Pen-ek Ratanaruang's 6ixtynin9 (1999). And before you ask, no, the film has nothing to do with the sex position. It refers to a bit of confusion caused by a 6 on an apartment door that keeps flopping over to become a 9. Clearly the much-better (and Hendrix-referencing) title "If 6 were 9" never occurred to anyone. However, what did did come of Mr. Ratanaruang's efforts is a tasty, twisty Thai take on Danny Boyle's Shallow Grave (1994).

Tum (Thai soap star Lalita Panyopas) finds a box of money on her doorstep. As we all know, this means trouble. Tum's not exactly what you'd call a tough customer, but she nevertheless possesses some impressive survival instincts. Plus she's just been canned from her job and could really use the cash. Therefore when the inevitable thugs show up to retrieve the loot, they get more than they bargained for, setting off a chain reaction of murder and mayhem.

Now you might be thinking, "Oh brother, been there, done that." But you haven't. Pen-ek Ratanaruang was one of the originators of the Thai film boom of the late 90s and is known for his unique style, applying inky black strokes of comedy with a light, deft brush, creating a vibe I'd call "Thai/indy." 6ixtynin9 is more kinetic and plot-driven than his most well-known film, the moodier, dreamier Last Life in the Universe (2003).

As mentioned earlier, the film is made memorable by its wonderful assortment of kooky characters, each played to a naturalistic perfection by the talented cast. Tum's nosy neighbor Pen (Sirisin Siripornsmathikul) is a hoot, a Thai cougar who's having it off with a young cop (uh oh). She always turns up at the wrong moment and at one point has a hilarious discussion with her cronies as to what to do with an inconstant lover (hint: It involves a knife and a food processor ... ). Tum is also forced to deal with the drama queen antics of her friend Jim (Tasanawalai Ongarittichai), a beautiful girl who's unlucky in love and ready to open a vein over it.

But I've said enough. If you haven't seen that many Thai films, I'd definitely recommend this one. If you saw Last Life in the Universe and found it dull, try 6ixtynin9. Thai-flavored black comedies don't get much better.


Phantom of Pulp said...

I must check this out. I have to admit that I'm not "well read" when it comes to Thai flicks, even though I could name about a dozen gems. There must be so much gold to unearth.

Patrick Galloway said...

There may be one in my book Asia Shock that you haven't seen ;)

Chris Churchill said...

6ixtynin9 is now out on US Netflix in HD!