Born to Fight
May 9, 2007
Following hot on the heels of the surprise success of Ong-Bak (2003), comes Born to Fight, (2004), another Thai martial arts film that boasts plenty of action, all of it without the aid of CGI. So when you see a guy taking a tumble off a moving truck, he’s really doing it. The film opens with two undercover cops taking down a warehouse full of drug dealers and this leads to an exciting chase between two trailer trucks and a van with our heroes in hot pursuit. Unfortunately, in the ensuing mayhem, one of the cops is killed in an explosion. However, the drug lord, General Yang (Gomarachun), is caught only to be transferred to the Americans and stand trial.
Deaw (Chupong), the surviving cop, understandably burnt out from the harrowing experience, accompanies his sister on a good will mission, providing sports equipment and training to the Pha-Hong village. They also provide the inhabitants with food and blankets while entertaining the children. We see how deeply religious these people are, steeped in Buddhism. This idyllic peace is quickly shattered when men with guns arrive and begin killing everyone in sight with cold, ruthless efficiency. An army moves in and converts the village into a base of operations. Their leader calls the Prime Minister of the country and gives him an ultimatum: give him General Yang by the next day or he will kill all of the villagers on live television. These terrorists have an additional trick up their sleeve: a nuclear missile that they plan to fire at Bangkok. However, Deaw and one of the athletes manage to escape and decide to take on the army themselves.
He eventually rallies the surviving villagers by appealing to their strong sense of nationalism. The visiting athletes use their skills to get the upper hand on their captors while Deaw’s police training comes in handy. We see the gymnasts use their acrobatic skills to flip and vault over the bad guys while a soccer player uses his mad skills to golf a ball into a soldier atop a watch tower. For an encore, he kicks a grenade back at a guy who threw it at him. Even the kids and the elderly get into the act as the village elder kicks ass for the village. If that weren’t enough, a one-legged man gets in on the action!
Dan Chupong certainly doesn’t have the charisma of fellow Thai action hero Tony Jaa but you still find yourself rooting for him anyway. He’s the determined underdog faced with insurmountable odds. He’s also one helluva a fighter – kicking, punching and shooting his way through the terrorists. It isn’t much of a spoiler to reveal that the good guys succeed at the end but Born to Fight doesn’t shy away from the terrible cost of victory – many of the villagers dead or maimed and all of their homes destroyed in the ensuing carnage.
On the first disc is a top notch audio commentary by Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan. He provides a little background on the director, how he came into prominence in the 1980s with low budget martial arts films and was a mentor to recent international star Tony Jaa. In fact, the film’s star used to be part of Jaa’s stunt team. Logan points out the influence of Hong Kong gangster films and how filmmakers like John Woo and Ringo Lam had a big impact as well. Logan talks about how Thai cinema has progressed over the last 5-10 years. He really knows his stuff and speaks intelligently about the film, with plenty of filmmaking details, and about Thai cinema in general.
The second disc features an hour-long making of documentary entitled, “The Making of an Epic.” This movie was actually a remake of a low budget Thai film Panna made 20 years ago. He was able to now do all of the things he had originally wanted to do but was unable because of lack of money. He wanted to make a film with stunts as impressive as of those he admired, namely Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. This is an excellent look at how this film came together with all of the participants speaking very eloquently about their part in it.
“Action!: On the Set of Born to Fight” is a mix of clips from the movie with behind-the-scenes footage scored to techno music.
Finally, there are two trailers.