Zin is the lover of Yakuza boss Masashi. She works for her ex, a Thai gangster called No.8. Zin and No. 8 have a minor fall out, with No. 8 shooting his own toe (?) then at a later date chopping off Zin's toe. Anyway, Zin has a daughter to Masashi but No. 8 forbids Zin from seeing Masashi again (it's all a bit complicated). The daughter, called Zen (Yanin Vismitananda), turns out to be autistic and a dab hand at catching objects that are thrown at her face. Zin and Moom, a young boy she's taken in, decide to make some cash by using Zen as a street performer. Everyone gathers in a ring round her and chucks stuff at her, which she catches. Then they cough up some dough. Hooray. After watching some martial arts films, like the director's own Ong-bak, Zen develops the ability to kick people around a fair bit. So Moom and Zen embark on a quest, collecting debts owed to Zin to pay for her cancer drugs.
So yep, it is exploitation but at least it's for a good reason. Although the inclusion later on of another adult with a learning disability who fights on the side of the gangsters left an unpleasant taste in the mouth and felt decidedly unnecessary.
Despite this Chocolate is actually a pretty good scrapping film. It doesn't go down the Ong-bak route of not using wires for the lead actor but they seem to have used wires more for safety than for performing supernatural leaps like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Given that they were used there are still a surprising amount of injuries shown in the credits sequence. It's actually really funny. Not the fact that people got hurt making the film, but more the way it's edited. Someone gets kicked in the face. An ice-pack is applied. Someone gets punched in the face. Ice-pack. Someone gets slapped in the chicken nuggets. Cue ice-pack. (Maybe the slapped nuggets doesn't actually occur but you get the idea.) A neck brace appears at one point, which possibly isn't that funny.
The stunt where this happens is in the final fight scene set on the side of a building and it's impressive stuff. Zen regularly boots hoodlums off the narrow ledges and they fall to ground level, hitting other ledges as they plummet. Admittedly they were slowed slightly by wires but the falls still look brutal. Let's face facts, that's why we love Jackie Chan films and stuff like this: there's virtually no health and safety. The actors certainly suffer for their art which makes it far easier to appreciate them.
Probably the stand out stunt is when Zen runs towards a low glass table and slides under it. At the exact same moment a crime boss type throws a wooden pallet just over the top of the table at her. This could have gone really badly wrong if the timing had been even marginally out. The ice-packs would definitely have been needed. (Along with a surgeon who specialises in skull breakages and facial reconstructions. Or possibly an undertaker.)
Good fight films have scraps that are all different in some way. Chocolate manages this task perfectly well. One fight involves Zen doing a quality Bruce Lee impersonation, another has her using two big sticks to batter criminals and yet another has her fighting in an abattoir with all of the lovely weapons that location suggests. All in all the variety keeps things interesting right up to the end.
As for Yanin Vismitananda, well she's one to watch. I've already got another couple of her films on my radar: Raging Pheonix and This Girl is Bad-ass!! (That's if some kind person gets around to releasing the latter in the UK.) She seems to have a natural flair for comedy and I must say that I like a few laughs with my bone-crunching, plum-squashing action.
This lacks the really brutal edge of Ong-bak (no elbows plummeting vertically down on heads here) but it makes up for it with engaging lead characters. The story is non-descript but I don't watch these films for their stories. Enjoyable stuff.
If you like this you could also try:
Ong-bak, Police Story.