Insufficient character development can be overlooked with a stern script, some good dialogue and focused direction. Unfortunately, Elephant White offers none of those things. As a result, the viewer hardly ever lives and breathes with the characters on the screen. Does this movie have the makings of an action thriller or could the description “mystical monk journey” fit the bill? I truly believe that the director of Elephant White, Prachya Pinkaew, doesn’t have the answer.
Despite plum casting with Kevin Bacon doing a rare Cockney turn and Djimon Hounsou as the assassin who borrows his custom made rifles, the picture falls into an inescapable, identity crisis trap. Shedding light on the marginal plot – with its numerous gaping holes and illogical plot turns – seems important. However, in an attempt to sift through the dross and not bewilder the reader, I shall be brief. Curtie Church (Hounsou) describes himself as a killer “without remorse.” He works for a shadowy personality and continually pesters Jimmy (Bacon) for new and better guns. There’s a twist within the twist, including some visual touches that are borderline disturbing. It all refuses to make sense, leaving the audience with doubts about the credibility of the enterprise.
Djimon Hounsou continues to impress. His masterful work in Amistad (1997) and Gladiator (2000) certainly paved the way for future assignments. And yet, Elephant White doesn’t stretch him in any way, partly because Kevin Bacon has a whale of a time hamming up his scenes. The latter proves most hilarious, trying to get away with a thick English accent – reminiscent of the wonderful Brion James in Tango and Cash (1989). Despite some hilarity with Bacon, the film lets its audience down by introducing a lazy editing structure that relies exclusively on the basest material possible. Think of the most sickening act imaginable and you get the idea.
Arguably, the most perplexing bit of casting here has to be Jirantanin Pitakporntrakul as Mae, the young girl covered in too much makeup who follows the assassin from place to place. She’s not all she seems, but then neither is the script by Kevin Bernhardt.
Robert Folk’s score – I could think of worse names for it – fails to connect on any level as an emotional experience. He’s not alone, as cinematographer Wade Muller steals liberally from Ridley Scott, particularly in the use of coloured highlights and fruity backdrops.
The problem with films that carry double meanings seems to be a lack of emotional involvement. Had the makers of Elephant White pruned away some of the more baffling elements, then a truly original and entertaining film could have resulted. As it stands, the picture barely achieves a passable rating.
(Released by Millennium Entertainment and rated "R" by MPAA.)