6IXTYNIN9 (Ruang talok 69)


6IXTYNIN9 (Ruang talok 69)

(director/writer: Pen-ek Ratanaruang; cinematographer: Chankit Chamniwikaipong; editor: Patamanadda Yukol; music: Wild at Heart; cast: Lalita Panyopas (Tum), Tasanawalai Ongartittichai (Jim), Black Phomtong (Kanjit), Sritao (Old Man), Arun Wannarbodeewong (Mr. Tong), Sritao (Yen), Arun Wannardbodeewong (Suwat), Sirisin Siripornsmathikul (Pen), Likit Thongnak (Wiroj); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Pen-ek Ratanaruang; Palm Pictures; 1999-Thailand-in Thai with English subtitles)

“Its humor is wicked.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Pen-ek Ratanaruang (“Last Life in the Universe”) follows up on his acclaimed Fun Bar Karaoke (1997) with this thriller/gangster black comedy. The absurd narrative is winsome, nevertheless the story is too slight and patchy to elevate it any higher than being an enjoyable funky one with touches of Tarantino and Hitchcock. It uses the gimmick of an apartment-door number that slides out of position from six to nine to frame its foul-up story and how the sweet young heroine gets mixed up with vicious gangsters.

We’re told that Thailand is experiencing some bad economic times in 1997. The finance company where Miss Tum (Lalita Panyopas) is a secretary has to lay off a certain number of workers and the boss, Tong (Arun Wannarbodeewong), decides to do it randomly by having everyone choose a number and those unlucky ones with the right number get canned. Our heroine Tum gets canned. Since there are no jobs available, when Tum is back in her Bangkok pad she thinks of suicide. But when she opens her door the next day, she finds at the doorstep a cardboard noodle box filled with $25,000. This seems to be the answer to her prayers and she holds onto it. When two gangsters from the shady Kanjit (Black Phomtong) fight club, they fix fights, come asking for the money, it becomes evident there was a screw-up and the money was meant for apartment No. 9 to pay off for a fixed fight with Mafia Tong (none other than Tum’s office boss, who doubles as a Mafia chief). But a loose nail causes her 6 to slip and appear as a 9. Rather than give up the bread she fights the burly men off and miraculously overcomes both. She now has to dispose of the two corpses, fend off some nosy neighbors, get a fake passport for an immediate flight of escape to London, deal with a depressed suicidal girlfriend (Tasanawalai Ongartittichai) whose gigolo boyfriend ditched her, bear up to listening to obscene phone calls at all hours and then to the bargain she finds more corpses that include the cop who lives below her. How this ordinary girl manages to survive in such an extra-ordinary way and on top of that is served by a nosy neighbor (Sirisin Siripornsmathikul) a minced-dick salad from one of her corpses, is more than somewhat appealing. It ends with a quote from Truman Capote “When God gives you a gift, he also gives you a whip,” which makes about as much sense as the movie.

The amateurish acting and limited production values kept it looking like a B-film, but it’s nevertheless impressive for the zany mood it sets, its sardonic reflections on the Thai economic crisis, the many amusingly theatrical ways the oddball characters reflect on their despair and how handsomely it brings home its theme that so much in life hinges on chance. Its humor is wicked; its murder scene is grotesque; but it’s all in good fun and the idiosyncratic film should be taken in the spirit of something as bizarre as a person dying from a “dirty manicure.”