Born to Fight (Kerd ma lui)

  • Panna Rittikrai
  • 2004

After taking down the biggest drug dealer in Thailand, and losing his partner and half a town in the process, hard-boiled cop Daew (played by a ridiculously agile Chupong Changprung) takes some much needed time off and decides to travel around helping poor villagers with the aid of his sister Lowfei (Santisuk Promsiri) and her group of Olympic gymnast friends. Unfortunately the first village they enter is unexpectedly taken over by Terrorists, who of course have a live Nuke, and its up to Daew and his rag tag team of gymnasts to take back the village and save Thailand.

the creme de la creme of hardcore stuntwork without CGI, wires or special effects

Born to Fight marks the second directorial effort of Panna Rittikrai, the martial arts choreographer and writer of Ong-Bak (Prachya Pinkaew, 2003), so viewers are once again treated to the creme de la creme of hardcore stuntwork without CGI, wires or special effects. As the choreography of Ong-Bak proves, Rittikrai is an extremely competent action director, but he takes Born to Fight one step further by mixing the gloriously technical slow motion stunts of Ong-Bak with beautifully choreographed long tracking gunfights, reminiscent of John Woo in the final showdown of Hard Boiled (1992). And of course all this is complemented by a pumping techno soundtrack and stunt-work unparalleled in Asia (apart from maybe Ong-Bak) and never to be found in Hollywood. Along with people being smashed endlessly through wooden doors or kicked off moving trucks, other delightfully silly stuntmen include a one legged kickboxer, a Shaolin Soccer (Stephen Chow, 2001)-style footballer who uses footballs to dispatch of enemies and a protagonist who beats of enemies with fiery planks of wood.

As the storyline and action suggests, this isn’t a film to be taken too seriously, and narrative will only take up a paltry fifteen minutes of your time, making Born to Fight particularly apt for western transfer as people who don’t like subtitles have little reading to do. Whilst initially shocked at the complete disregard for storyline the film actually turned out to be quite a liberating experience, making me wonder, “Why do I have to endure a flimsy storyline and excruciating dialogue before getting my action fix?”

A deliciously senseless action extravaganza.

All the Hollywood action cliches are there, such as the hero’s rousing end-speech just before the Thai national anthem plays on the radio and spurs the village into action, but fortunately they are kept to a minimum. So much so that the rousing end-speech occurs half way through the film, leaving the second half entirely for testosterone fuelled shootings and beatings on a previously unprecedented scale.

Born to Fight represents a triumph of stunts over substance, playing like Black Hawk Down (Ridley Scott, 2001) with fists rather than firepower. Obviously viewers looking for another Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003) (or a film with any storyline at all) should steer clear but action or Asia extreme fans will be pleased to see one of the best action films to come out of Asia in a while, and for any fans of Ong-Bak, this is a must. A deliciously senseless action extravaganza.

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