Red Eagle soars again
Parinyaporn Pajee
October 7, 2010

The new incarnation of 'Insee Dang' has the masked superhero knocking off hypocritical politicians

The cold war is long over and the Kingdom's enemies are no longer so instantly recognisable, so resurrecting superhero "Insee Dang" ("The Red Eagle") on the big screen proved a major task even for such a versatile director as Wisit Sasanatieng.Based on the 1956 crime novel by Sek Dusit,

"Insee Dang" has spawned nine books, 10 movies and a TV series, though the only Insee Dang who was successful was 1960s superstar Mitr Chaibancha.

He appeared in six films including the fatal "Insee Thong" ("Golden Eagle"), which saw the actor fall to his death from a helicopter ladder while filming the closing scene on October 8, 1970.

"He's my childhood hero. 'Insee Dang' was the superhero before the coming of the Japanese Masked Riders," says Wisit, who modernised old-time film panache in his 2000 western "Fah Talai Jone" ("Tears of the Black Tiger") and has wanted to do "Red Eagle" for a decade.

Tomorrow marks the 40th year anniversary of Mitr's death, so today's release of Wisit's remake of "Insee Dang" is timely. Of course, many of today's moviegoers will have never seen any of the previous films and to them a superhero is someone along the lines of "Batman" or "Iron Man".

"In fact, Insee Dang is not a superhero; he doesn't have superpowers or super gadgets. Moreover, since Hollywood does such an excellent job on superhero movies, it's impossible to do the same. What I've tried to do is to make everything as realistic as possible," says the director.

Wisit's Insee Dang character is former special-forces agent Rome Ritthikrai (played by Ananda Everingham), rather than the millionaire who is sick of bad guys in the society. Rome has been betrayed by the government so he becomes Insee Dang and kills bad people instead of relying on the legal system to bring them to justice.

Most of his targets are hypocritical politicians. As in today's society, when the bad guys are eliminated, some people agree with his vigilante mission but others don't. Among the dissenters are Lt Chart Wutthikrai (Wannasingh Prasertkul), who is Rome's friend but is blissfully unaware that Rome is Insee Dang.

Wisit felt it would be outdated if Rome were a millionaire who dresses up as Insee Dang. Mitr's red fabric mask and black costume have also been ditched in favour of a more modern black leather jacket and hi-tech mask. His uniform is bullet proof; his vehicle is a powerful big motorcycle, while his weapons are guns and specially designed blades.

The story is set in 2016 where the government is the puppet of the shadowy Matulee organisation. Matulee members wear khon-like masks in a reference to the Thai saying that wearing a khon mask means we are acting in roles different from our own selves.

The only one who knows Insee Dang's identity is NGO worker Wassana (Yarinda Bunnag). A high-society woman, she's the ex-fiancee of the prime minister (Pornwut Sarasin), a former activist who changed when when he won the election and became part of the political system.

Wassana and villagers are fighting the government's plans for a nuclear plant and that leads to violence as well as the government's suppression of the protesters. Some incidents echo current events even though the director wrote the script back in 2006.

Wisit believes that Thailand is so tightly controlled by unseen forces that no single "hero" could possibly help the country.

"There's a hero inside all of us but we can't call on one person to get rid of all our country's problems. That's totally impossible," he says.

Though "The Red Eagle" seems different from Wisit's previous movies, it is still very much in his signature style and recalls old-time action films through the dialogue as well as through the characters.

"We appreciate Korean or Western culture without having any historical background, so why can't we do the same with our Thai film treasures?

There are no good excuses like 'It's too long ago, I wasn't born at the time' because many people love popular Korean culture and that only started a few years ago," says the director.

Though "Red Eagle" had a stated budget of Bt100 million, the actual production cost was much less. "I said from the start that I can't do it well for that money but my producer really wanted me to do it, so I tried," Wisit says.

Constant problems and the studio system caused him to struggle.

"The project consumed me in every way - both in terms of money and my health [he has diabetes]. As a director, everyone knows that whatever happens, I can't leave the project. I'll come back and do anything to complete the film. But it's the last project I'll do with the studio," he says.

"As I get older, I have to question whether it's worth sacrificing myself for a movie. The answer is no. I have other things to do in my life than just making movies."

Pop for tickets

-Coke Zero and SF Cinema are offering a special promotion, giving away 30,000 free tickets for "Insee Dang."

- When you buy a movie ticket for "Insee Dang" or purchase two six-packs of Coke Zero, you'll get a free ticket for the movie.

- Call (02) 268 8888 or visit