I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Born to Fight

You know how once every 6-12 months you and your buddies will have a brief conversation about what a shame it is SNAKES ON THE PLANE didn’t live up to its potential as entertainment? Yeah, I do that too, and the one thing I always bring up is how they had a character who they told you was a kickboxer and yet they never had him kick a snake… or a person for that matter. No buts about it, that is a dereliction of duty on the part of the filmatists.

Well this time when I said that one of my buddies brought up this movie from Thailand, BORN TO FIGHT, as a movie that lives up to that particular responsibility. The movie has a bunch of athlete characters so when drug lords take an entire village hostage and plan to fire a nuclear missile into Bangkok the athletes rise up and use techniques from each of their sports as combat.

He wasn’t lying. There’s gymkata in this movie. There’s a little bit of pole vaulting. There’s a guy who kicks soccer balls at gunmen and when he runs out of balls he jumps up and kicks fruit off of a tree. In short this is a great action movie.

Born to FightNow, believe it or not it’s not as goofy as that sounds. The tone of the movie is very melodramatic, more THE KILLER than SHAOLIN SOCCER. To give you an idea, the last scene is about a woman having trouble saying goodbye to a little girl who was orphaned during the events of the movie. Many innocent women and children are terrorized in this thing. There is alot of crying. And the story hinges on stirring your patriotic Thai heart. There’s a real Flight 93 moment when the athletes and villagers decide that the right thing to do is to fight back against the guerillas that have them hostage. And it’s not only the asskicking athletes who fight, there are old women and little kids kicking the shit out of these guys. Doing whatever they can. And one guy runs around waving a Thai flag to keep everybody’s spirits up. He never seems to put it down. That would be pretty funny in an American movie too, I would like to see somebody do that.

As you could probaly guess this movie comes from the same scene that produced Tony Jaa. Jaa’s not in this one but it’s a bunch of the same people and produced by his mentor, who starred in the original 1986 version this is supposedly a remake of. I tried to watch that one – the plot has nothing to do with this one as far as I could tell and from what I could bear to sit through there were no stunts other than some old school martial arts. Obviously an important movie in the history of Thai action, since it apparently inspired Tony Jaa to want to do movies. But it doesn’t really translate to 2008 American viewing.

The 2004 version sure does, though. What makes it special is that the stunts in it are god damn spectacular. You can’t really overstate how good they are. The opening shootout with drug dealers involves a fight on top of semi trucks and there are actually some shots of dudes jumping from trailer to trailer and kicking each other – the same thing they did in THE MATRIX RELOADED, except there’s no green screens involved in this one. And then, over and over, you see these guys get knocked off of the trucks, bounce off of other trucks, and (most impressively) land on the ground in the same shot. You see them hit the dirt! There’s a puff of sand that indicates they made the ground a little soft for them but still. Holy shit.

You can’t help but wonder “how the fuck did they DO that?” and sure enough the end credits show outtakes where the guy does the stunt and then they run over to him and… it looks like he can’t move. Oh. That’s how they do it. They throw people off trucks.

(But later there’s another one where a guy gets up and laughs afterwards.)

There’s also some good martial arts scenes. One fight takes place near a camp fire, and a guy falls in and catches on fire. In the same shot another guy reaches in and pulls out a burning log and they start fighting with these logs, shooting flakes of burning wood every time they hit each other. This is not allowed at most campgrounds in the U.S.

The stuntmen in this movie are like human pinballs. If they fall off a truck they’re gonna bounce off another truck. If they get in a fight they’re gonna get kicked off the platform they’re standing on and they’re gonna bounce off some pole or wall or something before they hit the ground. There’s also a whole hell of alot of exploding in this movie. Trucks driving through exploding buildings, guys inside the explosions rolling away from the trucks, all sorts of crazy shit. Don’t tell me somebody “blows shit up real good” until you’ve seen this movie for comparison.

There’s also one really impressive pre-CHILDREN OF MEN continuous shot of a guy running around corners shooting people and avoiding explosions, a hell of a sequence of carefully choreographed violence. It kind of looks like you’re watching somebody play a crazy video game, except it doesn’t look digital at all. It looks real.

And that’s the magic of this movie – doing shit for real. In Thailand the film industry is small. In order to compete with Hollywood’s giant budgets and skilled professionals they have to become the very best at their own regional art, which happens to be falling off trucks and hitting other trucks. Ironically, the more success movies like this and Tony Jaa’s have, the closer we come to the day when Thailand has more money to make movies and doesn’t have to do this crazy shit anymore to make their movies stand out. So let’s enjoy this while we can.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Saturday, September 20th, 2008 at 1:46 pm and is filed under Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “Born to Fight”

  1. Vern, you shame me. But I HAVE to go ahead and piggyback on your shit (sorry, man) to say that what you said? Much better.

    But Horrorview.com? Awesome. (again, sorry, man. then again, only cool people read your site so I’m tryin to get the word out)

    http://www.horrorview.com/Reviews/B/Born_to_Fight_US.htm

  2. Awesome! It’s impossible to not love a film where guys are prepared to be thrown off trucks for your viewing pleasure. What also deserves a mention are the several guys who get grenades thrown at them and seem to be standing right next to the explosions. I know there are (probably) pyrotechnics professionals overseeing it all, but damn, these guys look like it hurt.

    Good call, Vern.

  3. Apparently, a lot of the athletes in this movie are actually real national athletes, not just stuntmen. The girl that plays the main dude’s sister is a former national Tae Kwan Do champion. The soccer player that carries the flag around? He’s a professional Thai soccer player. At least one of the athletes is an Olympic gold medalist for boxing, and even the little kid who hits a flying knee on one of the thugs is a Muay Thai Junior National Champion.

    One other thing I like about the movie, many of soldiers(both the bad guys and the hostage rescue team), along with the main cop guy and a few other characters, shoot somewhat like people who’ve actually had professional training in combat shooting. They fire their weapons in single shot or 3-4 shot bursts, often use the sights, and actually appear to be aiming at specific targets in many of the scenes, as opposed to the average US action movie where the villains just point their guns in the general direction of who they’re shooting at and spraying bullets all over the place till the gun runs out. Not saying that doesn’t happen here at all, but it’s actually not the norm in this movie.

  4. Good sir, Vern! Because of your recommendation, I put it on the old physical disc queue, and it finally came so I decided my lunch break would be best spent watching it.

    Holy Balls is this flick awesome! Thank you greatly for the advice!

    That’s all.

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