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Born to Fight (2004)
Since I'm not a big expert on the Thai film industry, I had to do a little digging to figure out the difference between Born to Fight (1986) and Born to Fight (2004). Both films were directed by the same man (Panna Rittikrai) and both feature some seriously amazing action scenes and stunt work, but despite what my research indicates ... this one's not a remake at all. The first flick is about a cop on the hunt for a mob lawyer, while this one, well, I bet you've never seen a movie that could be described as Gymkata meets The Dirty Dozen mixed with Die Hard, only over-stuffed with that patented Thai trademark of hardcore "stunt fighting" -- with a whole lot of John Woo-style gunplay to keep things juicy.
Born to Fight is an absolutely insane experience, and it's definitely something you'll want to see if you're a big fan of action movies. The story is fairly inconsequential, to be honest, but suffice to say we're looking at a bunch of gifted young athletes (and one cop) who must prevent a platoon of village-attacking evildoers from launching a full-scale nuclear attack on Bangkok. Throw in some really harsh violence (these are some seriously vicious villains, believe me), a strangely appealing sense of humor, a whole lot of Thai culture and patriotism, a few exceedingly well-choreographed brawls, and just a little bit of melodrama to keep the blood boiling -- and you've got Born to Fight. (The last 30-some minutes consist of one long action scene. Honest.)
So while, yes, it's more than a little silly to see our heroes disarm and destroy opponents through the use of balance beams, rugby tackles, kicked fruit, parallel bars, and soccer balls, the action footage is so well-shot and energetically cut together... It's tough not to have a good time with even the "extra" ridiculous stuff. But there's a lot to be said for an action movie that delivers the goods, doubly so when those goods are done with very little movie magic. The fights, the falls, and the athletic prowess on display are the real deal all the way, and once that village has been invaded and that super-team of teenage athletes (and one cop) have had enough ... hoo boy do things get wild.
Longtime Tony Jaa collaborator Dan Chupong makes a strong case for himself as another young Thai action star. The guy defies gravity, basically, and he really knows his way around a knee to the chest and an elbow to the forehead. Director Panna Rittikrai (who has clearly come a long way since his do-it-yourself action flicks from the '80s) strikes a colorful balance between hardcore violence and a strange sense of levity -- but mostly he keeps the action well-shot, well-orchestrated, and splattered all over the place. Focus on the actual plot or the intentionally broad characters and you might be missing the point: Born to Fight exists solely for the action, and there's no denying that the flick delivers it. And how.
Video: Part of Genius Entertainment's new "Dragon Dynasty" banner, the 2004 release hits R1 DVD in very fine fashion. The flick is presented in an amaorphic ("matted") transfer, and the thing looks really quite excellent. (Strange that it took such a silly film for me to realize how beautiful Thailand is.)
Audio: DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1 Thai (with optional English subtitles). You could also opt for the 5.1 English dub track, but the dialogue barely even matters in the first place. (Spanish subtitles are also available.)
Extras: The 2-disc releases offers a fantastic audio commentary from Asian cinema expert Bey Logan, who doles out tons of fascinating info on the flick and its director. It's obvious this Logan guy is a huge fan of the material, but he also approaches the film with a critical eye and offers much more insight than actual opinion. Plus he's obviously a freakin' genius when it comes to the Asian action film, which means he keeps the information coming fast and furious.
Disc 2 offers a 65-minute piece called "The Making of an Action Epic," which is packed frenetic movie clips, a lot of cast & crew interviews, and several painful looks at the elaborate stunt work. Also included is a 6-minute promotional piece, and two Born to Fight trailers.
So it's a little quaint and corny when compared to the American action flicks, but it's also got a whole lot of energy, more than enough action, and some truly staggering stunt work. Fun, crazy stuff all the way.