If this plot synopsis sounds awkwardly vague, it is, because BKO: Bangkok Knockout is an awkwardly vague movie. Some website I came across while trying to verify all the performers' names mentioned that the competition at the beginning of the movie is to be the stunt team in a Hollywood movie, but the movie's one mention of it managed to slip by on a first viewing. Motivation for the villains, from Dr. Duschanon to a greedy American named Mr. Snead (Speedyn Arnold), is pretty flimsy. Even the box copy spends more time building up the participation of director Panna Rittikrai and his accomplishments than summarizing the movie's story. These characters are less introduced as they are given names, names that I picked up solely because they're in the subtitle track. All that matters is that some of these people are "good" and some of them are "bad," and the two sides are going to fight each other.
And fight they do. BKO doesn't quite match the skull-cracking forcefulness of the original Ong-Bak, but it more than makes up for it in inventiveness. Right from the first major action sequence, which has Eddo (Puchong Sartnork) hopping around on a chain-link wall/fence like one of the castle levels in a Mario video game, this is a dizzing, eye-popping, gasp-inducing piece of action filmmaking. While fighting a goofy, pantsless crossdresser, Ao (Sumret Muangput), lying flat on his back, pushes himself across the floor to headbutt his opponent in the crotch. Sartnork pushes himself off a wall and flies backwards over an opponent, bringing his feet together to clamp around his attacker's head. The film's apparent hero, Pod (Chatchapol Kulsiriwoottichai) kicks a sword at someone. Chaimongkol even gets a hold of a thug by biting his thumb and using the grip of her jaw to throw him over her body and into a table. It. Is. Nuts.
Beyond the fighting itself, Rittikrai also shakes up the setting and scenarios. Git (Gitsak Aoonjit) faces off against a guy driving a car, a masked opponent swinging a flaming axe (!), and scurries across a rooftop at top speeds. Lerm (Poonyapat Boonkunchanok) uses an metal rod like a bow staff. Later, there's an extensive fight that involves opponents on dirtbikes (this one might look a little more painful than the others), and Kulsiriwoottichai fights a guy on the underside of a moving Mack truck. The film also includes a ridiculous, all-out fight between some twenty or thirty people in a giant room in the warehouse, which is impressive both in scale (the plate-smashing seems amusingly slapstick), and how well Rittikrai is able to find bits of focus within the chaos, preventing it from turning into a big blur of stuff happening. One or two of the sequences, like one where U-Go (Sarawoot Kumsorn) takes on a guy with a sheet of pouring water between them, is pretty forced, but even those ones end up looking pretty cool.
Rittikrai tries to get the audience's sympathy with some weird flashback sequences that seem so poorly explained, I started to wonder if I was watching a sequel to a movie I hadn't heard of. Characters are betrayed, love triangles come to a head, and so on and so forth, none of which is really that compelling. Rittikrai also throws in a truly obnoxious comic relief character named Wanchai (Kerttisak Udomnak), who may give Jar Jar Binks and the cyborg girl from Jason X a run for their money as Most Annoying Side Character of All Time. And yet, BKO is still pretty satisfying, because I highly doubt anyone is going to Redbox this one because they're curious to know whether someone confesses their unrequited love for another. As a story, BKO probably gets a **, but for action, it gets ****.
The Video and Audio
Trailers for 13 Assassins, Troll Hunter, Hobo With a Shotgun, The Perfect Host, and a promo for HDNet Movies play before the menu. Additionally, clicking the BD-Live gateway offered me the choice of watching or downloading HD or SD trailers for Vanishing on 7th Street, All Good Things, Night Catches Us, Black Death, and Four Lions. Bangkok Knockout's original theatrical trailer is also included.