It sounded like a good idea: a retro Thai western, a pastiche of long-forgotten styles that’s part melodrama, part over-the-top gunslinging, all bathed in madly oversaturated colors. The tears of a waiting lover blur the inscription on a photograph; sad cowboys play forlorn melodies on their harmonicas; villains with pencil-thin mustaches laugh hearty belly laughs. Duels begin with Sergio Leone super close-ups, and then the gun barrels flare in staccato edits. Body parts go flying, and the heartthrob hero can shoot around corners. Even if you’ve never seen a Thai western in your life, most of this will seem mighty familiar from somewhere. (John Woo, Douglas Sirk, George A. Romero, and Lash La Rue have all been rightfully fingered as influences.)

But good looks and a wealth of allusions only get you so far. The pleasures of Tears of the Black Tiger lie exclusively in its winking, high-camp evocation of older movies and styles; there’s not much worthwhile beneath the ironic postmodern attitude. No matter how many lotus-decorated flashbacks and Bangkok beach walks the lovers take, their woes aren’t gripping enough, and scenes without emotional connection stretch out long past their welcome. The shootouts amuse but don’t thrill, and the few attempts at low humor fail–probably because everything is a meta-joke already. Opens Friday.

Fah talai jone. Wisit Sasanatieng, 2000. **

Rotten Tomatoes
[tags]wisit sasanatieng, film, thailand, western, pastiche, postmodern, 2 stars, melodrama, sergio leone, douglas sirk, george romero, lash la rue, john woo[/tags]