Born to Fight – DVD Review

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Directed by
Panna Rittikrai

Nappon Gomarachun … General Jang Sei Yang
Santisuk Promsiri … Lowfei
Dan Chupong … Deaw
Piyapong Piew-on … Tun
Somrak Khamsing … Tug
Amornthep Waewsang … Moo
Suebsak Pansueb … Jo
Nantaway Wongwanichislip … Nye
Kessarin Ektawatkul … Nui
Rattaporn Khemtong … Tunta

The Movie:

With the international success of Ong Bak: Thai Warrior in 2003, the Thai movie industry got a boost the likes I haven’t seen since John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow announced the emergence of the Hong Kong cinema in the late 80’s. The movie’s hero, Tony Jaa, displayed a brute strength and grace in his fight scenes that reminded people of Jackie Chan or Jet Li in their heyday. Since the release of the movie, there have been two more imports from Thailand to display the same frenzied action and pace, each with the same deficiencies in storytelling and ham-fisted drama. The first was Tony Jaa’s follow-up The Protector, which was fun, but was seriously hampered by poor editing in its American Theatrical release. Reaching DVD for the first time in North America on the Weinstein’s Dragon Dynasty label is the second film, a smaller, but very exciting Action movie; Born to Fight.

Directed by Panna Rittikrai, the action-director on both Ong Bak and The Protector, Born to Fight is a fun piece of action cinema that is hurt mostly by the fact that it doesn’t star Tony Jaa. In his place we get Dan Chupong as Deaw, an undercover cop who loses his partner on a botched sting at the film’s outset. As a way to recover from his terrible loss, Deaw decides to take a bit of vacation and volunteers to join the Thai National Sports Team, which his sister is already a part of, on a charity mission to give food and supplies to poor villages on the Thai border.

Now this is a pretty formula first act for an Action film, and while the acting is pretty uniformly mediocre, the film’s opening action sequence is very impressive featuring gun fights, car chases and ridiculous stunts. Deaw is apparently a man not to be messed with, as he battles drug dealers atop a tractor trailer, taking out bad guys left and right. It’s nice to see a sequence this involved that doesn’t feature any CGI, as you can see how painful and dangerous the action must have been for the stunt team. One guy actually falls in between two trucks that are going side by side and his head just barely misses getting crushed by a wheel.

The bulk of the film, consists of an assault on a village that Deaw and the athletes are trying to help. Terrorists attack the village, killing many and taking the rest hostages including the National Sports Team. Arranging to ransom the village in exchange for the release of their leader, the villains also plan on laughing a nuclear attack on Bangkok if their plans aren’t met. Only Deaw seems to evade capture, with the last half of the picture becoming a type of “Die Hard in a Village”, and our hero finally freeing the athletes and villagers so they can revolt against their captors.

The last half of this picture is nearly non-stop action, as the athletes use their various skills (gymnastics, soccer, and Tae Kwan Do) to fight back against the Terrorists. It’s in this last half of the movie that Director Panna Rittikrai really flies fast and loose with the action, coming up with absolutely outrageous sequences involving the athletes, most of whom are actually on the Thai National Sports Team in real life. Whether it’s a gymnast kicking a villain’s teeth in using makeshift parallel bars or a soccer player taking out a sniper on a guard tower from about 100 yards away, Rittikrai has no problem throwing in as many ridiculous scenes as possible.

Fans of gunplay and martial arts will also be happy, as Chupong’s Deaw becomes an unstoppable killing machine. The actor is very impressive physically throughout Born to Fight’s final 45 minutes of battle scenes, letting his shotgun and insane kicks do the talking for him. Chupong is no Tony Jaa, but he should have no problem being able to find a good following after showing off his impressive skills here.

The problems with the film have to do with when the kicks and bullets aren’t flying. Dialogue and acting are both mediocre at best, and the movie’s plot is just a clothesline for action sequences. Also, there’s an element of Thai nationalism that makes for some very sappy film making, and doesn’t translate well at all. Fortunately, the movie’s action is good enough that it’s easy to recommend the film despite these deficiencies.

While not for people looking for serious drama or intrigue, Born to Fight should appeal to fans of Ong Bak or The Protector, or fans missing the glory days of Hong Kong cinema, when movies such as Hard Boiled or Police Story reigned supreme. Just beware of the movie’s slower sequences. While probably the worst of the three Thai imports that have surfaced in the last few years, Born to Fight is a fun, action-packed way to spend 100 minutes.

The DVD:

The Video
I’ve got to say that this print is a little disappointing. While it may have just been a problem with the original film’s cinematography, but there are several places where the image on this film is a bit pixilated and the colors aren’t quite right. The film never gets too dark or anything like that, the image just isn’t as crisp as you’d expect. The film is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

The Audio
The Audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is very good. There’s not a ton of dialogue, but what’s there is never drowned out by the film’s action. There’s also an English dub available on this disc.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary, Documentary, Featurette, and Trailer.

Audio Commentary with Hong Kong Film Expert Bey Logan – As with all his commentaries for these Dragon Dynasty discs, Logan is absolutely full of info, giving a lot of background on actors and film makers. He’s also very adept at spotting cultural differences, which is very interesting. An example would be a moment when a monk is killed in the middle of the battle, and the village is much more affected than it is at any of the children that have died. This is because in Thai culture monks are placed on such a high pedestal, that it is unthinkable that someone would kill them. Logan even has a funny anecdote about a man on the run from the mob and instead of fleeing the country; he just became a monk and was completely safe.

The Making of an Action Epic – This documentary on the making of Born to Fight runs more than an hour and is pretty exhaustive. Its fun to see some of the sequences come together, and Director Panna Rittikrai goes into a lot of detail about character development and how difficult it was at times working with athletes instead of with actors.

Action! On the Set of Born to Fight – This only goes about 5 minutes and is little more than a highlight reel of the film’s action.

Trailers – You get trailers for this film, Seven Swords, and Police Story 2 on this disc.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Born to Fight
(OUT OF 10)