After the eye-widening exploits of Prachya Pinkaew's "Ong-Bak", this action epic follow-up, directed by "Ong-Bak's" fight choreographer, Panna Rittikrai, is bound to garner a huge amount of interest. Pinkaew produces this time out but, once again, the emphasis is very firmly on the action rather than the plot or sophisticated emotional development of character. But then ... you already knew that! Although there are plenty of fight scenes here, the film sets itself apart from "Ong-Bak in that its action mainly takes the form of some, literally, death-defying stunts that have to be seen to be believed! How they got away with some of this stuff without killing the entire stunt team takes some imagining!
The most daring stunt alone (which comes before we even get to the opening credits), took a year of planning. Some insight into the mentality that goes into the making of these Thai action movies comes in an interview with director, Rittikrai, included in the supplemental materials on this disc: after almost a year of tests and planning, the production team concluded that one particular stunt the script called for was impossible to achieve without killing somebody and it was decided to shoot it with the aid of a bluescreen effect instead. But producer, Pinkaew insisted that it be shot for real though -- because it would make a great moment in Thai cinema! Eventually, somehow, the team worked out a way to achieve the stunt for the film. In fact, like "Ong-Bak", there are no CGI effects and no wire-work used in the making of the movie ... just some insanely dedicated (some might say foolhardy) stunt men who appear willing to do absolutely anything they're told, no matter how dangerous, for the sake of a memorable cinematic spectacle! This particular film is also a vehicle for Thai national pride at the country's sporting prowess; the cast includes real Thai athletes who get to use their particular specialities in the course of the movie's many fight scenes.
The action gets underway with two undercover cops, officer Deaw (Dan Chupong) and Major Ritdamrong (Sahaschai Chumrum) on a drugs bust operation that goes wrong after they are recognised by evil drug baron, General Yang (Noppol Gomarachun) -- who attempts a speedy getaway in one of a fleet of articulated lorries used by his private army. The two cops give chase, and the film's amazing stunt centrepiece occurs with a full-scale fight on top of two, parallel moving lorries! In this case, the word "stunt" seems too bland a word to describe what occurs in this scene: being-thrown-violently-off-of-the-top-of-a-large-moving-vehicle-at-high-speed-and-landing-inches-from-the-wheels-of-another-fast-moving-vehicle gives more of a clue! Although no one was actually killed or seriously injured during the making of the film, I'm guessing there is no way these guys came away from some of the feats performed in this sequence without at least a few nasty bruises! The end credits show us behind-the-scenes footage of the film's most memorable stunts being shot, and there are more than a couple of dazed stunt men seen being stretchered off-set!
After numerous massive explosions and many bone-snapping head kicks have been delivered, Deaw finally manages to bring General Yang into custody -- but not without his superior and friend, Major Ritdamrong, being blown to pieces by a bomb that was rigged to one of the Baron's lorries! Deaw cannot carry on with his police work after this tragedy and takes solace in helping his aspiring athlete sister, Nui (Kessarin Ektawatkul) on a charity trip to a poor village on the Thai/Burmese border, where Thailand's National Athletics Squad are to hand out sports equipment and money donations to the local kids. Here is where the title sequence kicks in and, to the accompaniment of a hideously sickly sweet anthem, we're treated to scenes of said athletes being greeted by poor-but-happy workers, joyously playful youngsters and dignified old folk. In a display of feel-good cynicism that would make even Spielberg baulk, we then witness the kind Thai athletes handing over cheques to grateful local teachers, distributing cuddly toys to the cute youngsters, presenting the frail, toothless old folk with bundles of warm blankets and shooting the breeze with gentle, Buddhist monks! I kid you not!
Of course, this is just the emotionally manipulative prologue to the coming sucker punch: no sooner have we been lulled into a false sense of well-being and contentment at man's essential decency (well, that was the idea anyway) than the Buddhist monk is suddenly being slain in a hail of machine-gun fire -- as are a large portion of the athletics team, the well-meaning teachers and swathes of the poor-but-happy locals! General Yang's army have invaded the town and plan to hold the populace hostage. Unless Yang is released, the entire population of the village will be massacred live on the internet. What the Thai Government don't know is that the General's men plan to kill everybody anyway; and, for good measure, there is a nuclear missile trained on Bangkok, ready to be launched on the city as soon as Yang has escaped! In stark contrast to the earlier scenes, we are now regaled with images of the bullet-ridden bodies of poor villagers lying in the dust and fathers being dragged from the arms of screaming toddlers to be butchered in front of their offspring's eyes! One of the feistier of the old codgers of the village attempts to reason with the scar-faced leader of the guerrillas: "If you must kill somebody, kill me!" he pleads. The soldier obligingly blows his brains out with a pistol at point blank range!
When he gets wind of the army's real plans, Deaw rallies the remaining members of the athletics team and, after pumping themselves up with a rousing rendition of the Thai National Anthem, they unleash a storm of athletics-based rebellion! Even one of the youngsters is emboldened (played by one of Thailand's youngest junior athletes) and is soon avenging her dead father by knocking evil soldiers flying with her head slammin' Thai fu-kicks! Pretty much all of the remainder of the film is one long action sequence as almost all of the machine-gun toting soldiers are taken out by our gymnastic heroes one after the other. There are explosions, vicious kickboxing fights, more explosions, crazy motorbike stunts, even more explosions, people hitting each other hard with sticks and other implements and, to top it all, a really, really, really big mutha of an explosion! Stand out sequences include Tony Jaa's junior, Dan Chupong, in a fast & furious fight in which people hit each other with flaming clubs (!); and -- presumably the films one concession to special effects -- a scene in which a soldier is hit with a projectile from a bazooka and explodes in front of our eyes!
Chupong brings off some more criminally dangerous stunts in the last part of the film in which he has to avert the nuclear missile from blasting Bangkok into oblivion and save one of the villagers left injured and stranded in the village, which has been rigged to explode by the remaining members of Yang's army! Among his most spectacular exploits, Chupong has to lie in the path of a careening truck as it plunges through a flaming scaffold towards him! Of course, the plot is wafer-thin, the villains are cartoon baddies and there is never the slightest doubt that Chupong and his athlete chums will prevail in the end. Also, the second half of the film plays at one level for far two long with a relentless series of fight sequences scored to a rather bland techno track. But despite this, the flick runs along smoothly and is over before you even know it! There is always plenty going on to keep the viewer engaged and even the blatant emotional manipulation is so obvious that it comes across as rather naive and charming more than anything else! This is one to watch with your brain disengaged for sure, but the action scenes will not disappoint.
"Born To Fight" comes to DVD in quite a good edition from Momentum Asia. The 1:85.1 anamorphic transfer looks very nice -- most of the grain in the picture is deliberate, probably in an effort to look tough and gritty! We get a fairly good Dolby Digital 5.1 track with DTS audio and there is a small selection of extras which include some trailers ("Born To Fight"; "Ong-Bak"; "The Bodyguard") and a number of short interviews with the cast, producers and the director of the film.