THE CON-HEARTIST (FILM REVIEW)

Besides sinful Mookatas, fiery Tom Yum soups and delicious Phad Thai, it’s safe to say that the Thai have cornered the market on wacky humour on-screen. It’s not just in movies, but you’ll likely have seen one of those twist-ending ads that drops a curveball of an ending after an emotional wringer.

But a victim to its own success, many subsequent efforts after the boom have gone off the cliff with zany scripts that are nothing more than just a string of OTT theatrics. Thankfully, The Con-Heartist, directed by Mez Tharatorn, struts the fine line between story and stagey antics with panache.

What we have here, is a tale of con versus con. The first is Tower (Nadech Kugimiya), a serial con-artist who unfortunately picks the wrong target in Ina (Pimchanok Luevisadpaibul) and gets blackmailed to help her get revenge on her ex, Petch (Thiti Mahayotaruk), himself a sweet-talking trickster who has a habit of parting women with their money.

With Tower essentially looking like Thailand’s Eddie Peng, is it surprising that Ina would eventually fall for the fella? So when the schemes don’t go as expected and distrust starts to breed, the story becomes juicer as emotions become complicated.

The Con-Heartist doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and thankfully so because there’s still much to milk from classic scenarios, of which the cast executes brilliantly. Whether it’s distracting Petch from asking about his hijacked phone, to overcoming awkward scenarios when the unwanted passer-by throws plans off-course, the team led by Tower surmounts their challenges with funny improv.

It is with these side characters that the film shines the most. As reluctant volunteer playing a false CEO of a Chinese beer company, Ms Nongnuch (Kathaleeya McIntosh) is a hapless but lovable former teacher who mad flexes through sharp turns in the con’s script. Jone (Pongsatorn Jongwilas) who shows up as Tower’s born-from-the-same-prison brother is just the right amount of kookiness and spontaneity that keeps the chuckles going.

The unbelievably attractive main cast would have you thinking they were brought in as pure eye candy, but they show a commitment that bears out equal weight in their respective roles, with a performance – though campy – that keeps them as realistic characters, even when they’re hamming it up.

As with such genre films from Thailand, one can expect colourful cameos, a generous serving of audio effects for every eye-brow twitch or zoom-in of splattering saliva to match, and plenty of shuttling about Thailand’s regions. In all honesty, there does seem to be a little bit of product and destination placement here. But with the controlled levity from Tharatorn and the sincere performances from the entire ensemble, The Con-Heartist manages somehow to be an effective entertainment to lift the gloom during these pandemic times.

Breezy slapstick served right, by way of a restrained hand from the director and a heartfelt performance by the stunning cast.

4*

First published: www.movieXclusive.com

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