Thai ‘Gangster’ film explores Bangkok’s gangland of yore

In his latest film, “Gangster” – “Antapal” in Thai – director Kongkiat Komsiri takes to the heart of Bangkok’s gangland in the slicked-back-hair days of the 1950’s.

Kongkiat, who directed the critically acclaimed “Muay Thai Chaiya” and “Chuan,” says “Gangster” offers a gritty, real-life portrayal of the Bangkok underworld.

“It may be more entertaining to see gangsters dressed in cool gear and fighting like heroes but I think that’s very superficial. I try and give the story more depth by making it more true to life,” Kongkiat said in an interview with The Nation newspaper.

The story follows two generations of gangsters, starting in the 1950’s with Jod (Krissada Suksol Clap) and Dang (Somchai Khemklad) imprisoned under a nationwide crackdown on mafia. Once released, the pair encounter two younger gangsters who want to take after them. What Jod and Dang soon realize is that the nature of the game has changed – guns have come into play, bloodying the field and honor amongst gangsters is becoming an afterthought.

“The two generations mirror each other but the point I am making is nothing lasts forever and the changes affect their lives in many ways,” Kongkiat said.

“Guns make it easy for people to double-cross each other. The world has changed and honor among gentleman no longer exists,” he added.

The film does depict violence, such as a scene in which a man is stabbed in the neck with a crab claw (see trailer below), but lends depth to the characters by portraying the lighter, everyday life in Bangkok’s underworld.

Although he has achieved some critical success, Kongkiat’s films have not proven to be a hit at the box office.

“One problem is that my movies are serious and that doesn’t suit the audience. From my observations, local filmgoers tend to open their minds more to serious movies from Hollywood but expect only light entertainment from Thai films. It’s neither right nor wrong, it’s the way it is,” he said.

But Kongkiat hopes that won’t be the case with “Gangster” – one blogger even noted that flashmobs were out on the town promoting the film.

Gangster came out in theaters last Thursday and is showing in Thai with English subtitles at all major cinemas in Bangkok.

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