Born To Fight
"This is one of the few action movies where when the action ended I just wanted more of it."
- Ozark Savage
Born To Fight (2003)
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Writer: Prachya Pinkaew
Producer: Prachya Pinkaew, Sukanya Vongsthapat
Cast: Dan Chupong, Noppol Gomarachun, Suntisuk Phromsiri, Piyapong Pue-On, Somluck Kamsing, Amornthep Waewsaeng, Suebsak Phunsueb, Nantaway Wongwanichsilp, Kessarin Ektawatkul, Rattanaporn Khemtong, Chattapong Phantana-Angkul, Sinee Namwongphrom
Running Time: 91 min.
Plot: A town of innocent villagers are terrorized by a madman, and must fight back as best they can using their own athletic abilities. What ensues is a series of battles and stunts the likes of which have never been seen before!
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
RAGING GAIJIN'S REVIEW: Hot on the heels of "Ong Bak", comes "Born to Fight", the latest Thai film to endanger the lives of courageous stuntmen in that country. You get the sense that the filmmakers behind "Born to Fight" are trying their hardest to out-do "Ong Bak" – and, on some level, they succeed. The action sequences are even longer, the stunts are even more dangerous, and the violence is even more intense. Unfortunately, "Born to Fight" falls short in the crucial areas of story and character development.
As one-note as the story in "Ong Bak" may have been, at least the characters were rather defined; each of them had their own personality. From Ting's stoic resolve to the scheming Dirty Balls; even if you didn't like one of the characters at the beginning of the movie, by the end they had you won over (yeah, even the girl with the annoying as hell voice). So the plot was cliché and its anti-drug message overdone; you were still involved in the characters, and, as a result, you too wanted that statue head returned to the village.
With "Born to Fight", we have a lot of pretty young Thai people who display great athletic ability – but no personality. It's not that they can't act; they just never really get the chance too. The action takes the center stage, while plot and character development are left far behind. Thus the filmmakers resort to extreme violence (the mass slaughter of an entire village) in order to make you care about the characters. The audience is coerced into caring because, well, innocent people are being murdered for no apparent reason. It's a cheap tactic and it's really what keeps "Born to Fight" from being an instant classic like "Ong Bak".
That said, the action and stunts are absolutely jaw-dropping. They alone justify at least one viewing. But in the end, this is more like a stunt reel rather than a full-fledged movie; it just feels like a string of footage meant to show what the Thai film industry is capable of when it comes to action. It's a movie where the characters are defined solely by the sports they play and the villains are easy to spot because they're the inhuman bastards who shoot parents in front of their children. Obviously, it's a movie completely without subtlety. Then again, it's also a movie where people are thrown off moving semi-trucks and blown up by rocket launchers.
I've basically spent this entire review more or less detailing why "Born to Fight" isn't as good as "Ong Bak", but I'm still giving this movie a good score. Why? Because everything you've heard about it is true: the action is out of this world. If you love the kind of life-threatening stunts that Jackie Chan made famous with movies like "Police Story", then you can't pass up this movie. The soundtrack and fancy editing is a poor attempt at being "modern" but the style and genre of "Born to Fight" has been around for ages. I for one am grateful to see action flicks get back to their no-wires, no-CGI roots. This is bone breaking action at its finest. There's admittedly not as much genuine martials arts as "Ong Bak" but the over-the-top violence makes up for it. One noteworthy sequence is the extended steadicam shot that Ozark Savage mentions in his review. I don't think I've seen anything like it since the heyday of John Woo; it's almost like something out of a video game. It's a short moment smack dab in the middle of a long chunk of action but it's memorable and unique in its own way.
Action movies don't have be give-and-take between story and violence, but this one certainly is. It's a shame there isn't more to "Born to Fight" than brilliant stuntwork, but it entertains nonetheless. If you're enjoying this resurgence of ‘old school' action and stunts set forth by "Ong Bak", then don't miss "Born to Fight".
RAGING GAIJIN'S RATING: 7.5/10
OZARK SAVAGE'S REVIEW: In an interview with the Bangkok post in mid-2004 Panna Rittikrai said that he wanted to push the limits of the human body to see where the boundary was. Well it may seem like he has just started this but he has been working on it for the past 2 decades and over 50 films - all of these movies being low-budget, largely unseen B-flicks. In Thailand his movies are famous for the over the top, almost suicidal stunt choreography. Then in 2003 came Ong Bak without Panna's stuntwork or training Tony Jaa may not be the breakthrough star he is right now.
So where to go after being involved in a movie which is almost redefining a genre and giving Muay Thai the respect it deserves? Well why not remake one of your old movies with a bigger budget. Born to Fight is birthed.
The plot is nothing new. Cop Pe Deaw and partner/mentor are undercover trying to take down General Wong, just your average scumbag drug lord. The opening runs like a preview of things to come with a chase sequence involving two semis, Pe Deaw on top of said semis and a few bad guys being shot or thrown off the semis. Culminating with Pe Deaw's mentor dying and the capture of the General. Thus tormented by the death of his friend he sits at home brooding when his sister, a taekwondo star, suggests he come with her on her trip to a remote village to deliver sporting goods. She is part of a group of athletes from The Thailand Sport Authority doing charity work. The group includes a soccer coach, a soccer player, a gymnast and a rugby player. They get to the village just as a group of terrorists violently attack and take them all hostage along with the villagers. They are holding them in an effort to get General Wong released. Facing almost certain death the athletes and villagers fight back.
Interesting fact is that instead of getting actors and training them to fight, Panna went and hired real athletes. Even better is the fact that these athletes aren't that terrible at acting, what there is of a script they work well. Unlike Ong Bak where the pacing is pretty steady throughout, the build up to the climax can drag but it is well worth the wait.
What you get for your patience is over thirty minutes of the most insane, crazy and absolutely brilliant action you could ask for. Panna's movie making has definitely been affected, for example, the single take steadicam shot of Pe Deaw gunning down bad guys ala John Woo's Hard Boiled hospital shot.
This is one of the few action movies where when the action ended I just wanted more of it. And by more of it I mean, give Panna a bigger budget but please don't let Hollywood know about him... Look what they already did to Asian cinema stars and film-makers. Just don't let it happen to Panna.
OZARK SAVAGE'S RATING: 7.5/10
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S REVIEW: "Born To Fight" starts out very serious: Bloody gun play, villagers being wiped out massacre style, and weeping children seeing their parents killed before their eyes.
Then, before you know it, we have a series of pretty Thai athletes sporting Adidas tracksuits, taking on a bunch of fully armed soldiers using gymnastics, soccer balls, and acrobatic martial arts moves that just don't look like they're causing impact. Sure, let's flip a couple of times in the air, spread out our legs, then lightly kick someone in the jaw and watch them fly 10 feet away. All in slow motion. Whatever.
Yes, the stunts, acrobatics and fight sequences are pretty impressive but in a Universal Studios Tour/Gymnastics competition sort of way.
I hate to be one of those old school guys that keeps on saying "Hong Kong did it better in the 80's," but I have to be honest... they WERE done better back then. Don't let this new phase of crisp sound effects, constant slow motion shots, and multiple cameras fool you into thinking you're seeing anything more brutal or groundbreaking than something like "Police Story" or "Dragon Lord," because they're not. And I speak not only for this film, but for Prachya Pinkaew's last film, "Ong Bak," as well. At least the latter had ongoing fight sequences that were entertaining.
If you're a gymnastics fan or like to see people being knocked off towers with soccer balls, then this flick is for you. Otherwise, "Born To Fight" is overrated and ridiculous.
I'm not sure how many bones were broke during production, whatever the number was, it was NOT worth this film. Prachya Pinkaew, take a hike. And take your shitty techno soundtrack with you.
Hong Kong still owns you, buddy.
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S RATING: 4/10