Mercury Man (Ma noot lhek lai) (2006)

Your enjoyment of “Mercury Man” may be dependent on your enjoyment and tolerance of superhero movies as a whole. Thailand’s attempts to deliver a big screen marquee superhero for movie lovers is a mixed bag that I managed to enjoy overall–if only for its effort and intentions on aspiring to be as great as popular heroes like Spider-Man. There’s reason why it’s not considered a classic by mostly everyone, but I liked that it shook up superhero tropes here and there. “Mercury Man” is the story of courageous but irresponsible firefighter named Chan. He has no idea how to get his life together, and always attempts to play the hero. After a failed prison break results in a fire, Chan tags along with his unit, and is caught in the crossfire of international criminals who stab him with an ancient relic.

Leaving him to die, Chan is imbued with magical powers and after learns of his new powers from the relic, which is now embedded in his blood, he goes after a crime syndicate, led by Afghani terrorist Osama Bin Ali. As they seek the relics as a form of new weaponry in their holy war, Chan becomes Mercury man. As is the natural order of the superhero universe, with horrendous tragedy a new hero and a new villain are born. Beyond the evident derivative elements, the story of “Mercury Man” is pretty engaging and occasionally dazzling. It helps that Panna Rittikrai, stunt coordinator for Tony Jaa’s action films oversees much of the stunts and choreography here. “Mercury Man” certainly isn’t typical; it’s an acquired taste that uses often surreal camp to ease the action instead of comedic relief.

Our hero’s brother and sidekick is a post-op transsexual, and the explanation of Chan’s mysterious amulet that takes over his body reverts to a poor computer animated cartoon, for some reason. Not to mention the attempted social commentary falls flat more often than not. But what it lacks in substance, it certainly makes up for with a raucous atmosphere that makes the story of this super powered individual a blast. Director Thongdee certainly cooks up new ways to bring our hero Chan to realize his powers, including a particular moment involving a “Penthouse” Magazine. And once Chan becomes Mercury Man, suited in an eye catching uniform that looks like a combination of Spawn and Spidey, the action really makes up for the thin storyline.

Director Thongdee’s attempt at a superhero entry won’t click with all audiences, but in spite of its caveats, there are still many old fashioned comic book plot devices included that work. This includes a nightclub scenario involving an excellent series of fight scenes with our title hero and a slew of colorful villains. “Mercury Man” provides some pretty solid entertainment along with some fantastic action sequences, and even when cribbing from Spider-Man lore, it’s worth a watch if only to attempt to spot all the references to the wall crawler.