Action movies with a sporty theme don’t have a great pedigree. Escape to Victory had a go with soccer and The Last Boy Scout wove in some American footie. But in Thailand’s Born to Fight, directed by the action-maestro behind the astounding Ong-Bak, sport and action are taken into the stratosphere.
Undercover agent Deaw has resigned from the force after losing his partner in the arrest of a major drug baron. Deaw’s sister is a taekwondo champ, part of an athletics team which is on a promotional visit to a needy Thai village. Tagging along, Deaw’s soon up to his neck in it again. A rebel warlord murderously takes control of the village, beaming the executions live on TV with more killings to follow if the erstwhile drug baron isn’t freed. But he’s reckoned without the amazing abilities of the athletics team who rise up to exact sporty vengeance on the rebs. See that sniper in the watchtower? Bam! A curving footie ball takes him out. Just wait till you see what the gymnast can do.
It sounds preposterous. And it is. But it’s also gobsmackingly inventive, cleverly choreographed, and skilfully shot, with a rough and ready edge. Keen to show the west what human ability (athletic and filmic) can do, Rittikrai’s Thai flagwaving (literally) is a bit syrupy. Get past that, though, and there’s lots of originality on show in this brazenly- done hokum. With spectacular action and stunts, it isn’t subtle and it doesn’t have Ong-Bak’s production values. But it’s not a no-brainer either.
It isn’t a great movie – but it does have enough savvy to rub shoulders with one, reconstructing Jackie Chan’s famous set-piece from Police Story, as a vehicle wreaks havoc through a shantytown. Raw and eye-catchingly entertaining.