Thirty-four minutes and 30 seconds.
Almost every kung fu flick has the moment where it stops pretending to be a narrative drama and accepts the following facts: (1) The audience is not here for "character development." (2) The audience does not give a shit about "acting." (3) The audience will get up and leave, right goddamn now, if you don't start showing some bad guys getting their asses handed to them.
For its first half-hour, Chocolate is full of goofy melodrama, needless backstory, and montages set to sappy Thai pop. Though there are premonitions of ass-kickings to come, it's not until 34 minutes and 30 seconds in that the film slams into gear. But when it does, the only word to describe it is "holyfuckingshit."
I have to go back to 2003's Ong-Bak—the film that introduced the world to Tony Jaa's insane muay thai skills—to think of any of action sequences as surprising and impressive as those in Chocolate. (Which makes sense ; Ong-Bak's director, Prachya Pinkaew, also helms Chocolate.) This time around, Pinkaew introduces us to 24-year-old Yanin Vismitananda, who plays an autistic girl named Zen. I'd sum up Zen's character if Chocolate's trailer hadn't already done an amazing job: She's "a special-needs girl... with a special need... to kick some ass."
How can an autistic girl kick ass, you ask? Easy! See, Zen grew up watching kids next door learn muay thai, and she also watched a ton of kung fu flicks (including Ong-Bak!), so... somehow, her brain... it absorbed... look, I'm no doctor, but because of how autism's base DNA pairs... the powers of mimicry are very powerful. LOOK, I DON'T KNOW, OKAY? I guess if you show autistic kids stuff they can automatically do it or whatever? Good enough for me!
Anyway, back to what's important: Doing all of her own stunts, Vismitananda skitters across the sides of buildings and flies around like Michael Jordan, all while smacking the living shit out of troublesome motherfuckers with her heels, elbows, and fists. It's pretty astounding—Vismitananda's skills recall not only those of Jaa, but also of Jackie Chan, back before Jackie Chan did stuff other than cash Rush Hour paychecks and depress the hell out of everyone. There are also samurai swords, female henchmen who look like cross-dressers, and a reel that runs under the end credits showing everyone getting hurt during the making of the movie—reminding you that in Thailand, they do not believe in safety. What they do believe in, though, are autistic chicks who can kick you 45 times before you even hit the ground. And come to think of it, that's something all of us can believe in.