Born to Fight Review

Born to Fight is clearly a film which favours action over any kind of substance. Its opening set piece, for example, is near nonsensical. Certainly, we can appreciate the stunt work and their lack of CG enhancement, yet what’s going on behind them is difficult to ascertain. Indeed, only towards the end of the scene do the various pieces fall into place: an evil drugs baron, a pair of undercover cops, one of whom ends up dead.

All of this comes before the opening titles and their appearance seems to signal an entirely film. Our surviving officer resigns from the force and heads out with his athlete sister on a goodwill visit to a village in which various sportsmen and women (mostly played by real life Thai sportsmen and women) hand out charitable donations and gifts to their more need countryfolk. Cue sentimental theme song (thankfully left untranslated, though it’s not difficult to imagine its sugary content) and plenty of innocent, poverty stricken villages caught in a loving montage.

Clearly, Born to Fight is a feelgood film. It sets up such situations so that we may have our hearts warmed whenever they’re resolved. It’s a cynical calculation, of course, and one that’s unerringly simple. The equation would appear to be that the only way to achieve this feelgood tone is to go for maximum sentimentality. You could argue that this simplicity should therefore prompt the filmmakers to get straight down to business – i.e. the siege of the village by a missile-wielding rebel army and the retaliation by our gathered sportsmen and women – yet there appears to be little trust for the audience; for pretty much the entire first half scene after scene is dolloped on just in case we have missed the point. Children cry, old men are killed in cold blood, and the chief villain squints to demonstrate just how very evil he is. Indeed, it all becomes tiringly predictable.

Yet just as we’re about to overdose on all this sentimentality, Born to Fight changes tact once more and becomes an all-out action movie for its concluding half. Much like Seven Samurai, which clearly serves as an influence, director Panna Rittikrai signs out on 40 minutes of near continual violence. Of course, this is what the audience is waiting for and what the various trailers have used as 99% of their content, but is it worth the wait?

To a degree, Born to Fight continues along similarly sentimental lines. That child crying over her dead father? She gets to kick the murderer in the head a few times and likewise there’s a comparable triteness demonstrated elsewhere. With complete and utter unbelievability our various heroes and heroines will find their various skills invaluable when fighting the bad guys: the footballer will handily kick away incoming grenades; a young pole-vaulter will, of course, pole-vault herself away from explosions; and the village itself will reinvent itself as various gymnastic equipment – parallel bars and the like – solely as an excuse for a cheesy stunt or two.

And yet Born to Fight can also prove exhilarating. Rittikrai employs Steadicam long takes which take us right inside the action, whilst the lack of post-production tomfoolery makes for a grittiness which is extremely welcome in the face of both the sugary content found here and the wire-fu employed by other martial arts movies. That said, even this isn’t always perfectly handled. Given the length of this final sequence, Rittikrai isn’t always able to provide much in the way of dramatic shifts. All played on the same level, this does, on the one hand, produce quite an intense experience, but there’s also an over-reliance on the same techniques – multi-angle replays, slow motion – which soon becomes wearisome, as does the identikit techno with appears to accompany it throughout.

So where does this leave us? It certainly allows for a great trailer, but also a misleading one. Over Born to Fight’s comparatively brisk running time there’s much to contend with though it is possible to salvage some entertainment. Indeed, fans of action cinema should find their own pleasures, but it’s also true that even from their perspective this is more likely a renter as opposed to a sure fire purchase.

The Disc

The latest release from Momentum Asia, Born to Fight gets a better presentation than most. Anamorphic and with optional English subs, we also see the film pretty much as intended. Given the high contrast look, one which produces a noticeable grain and saturated colours, this could have proven problematic, but on the whole the disc impresses. Certainly, it may look a little dull at times and have little definition in the more shadowy scenes, but this would appear to be intentional. Moreover, the print itself is clean throughout, and the transfer technically sound.

Sadly, the soundtracks don’t quite match up in this department. We get the original Thai dialogue in a choice of DD2.0, DD5.1 and DTS, though oddly enough not the original Dolby Surround. That said, the 2.0 option is perhaps the closest to this and therefore perhaps unsurprisingly sounds the most dynamic. Indeed, the other two mixes seem to water down the dialogue’s presentation whilst upping the score and explosions, though this only makes for a frustrating listening experience. As such the stereo really is the one to go for.

As for the extras, these are somewhat wayward. There are a handful of trailers, including ones for Ong-Bak and the ridiculously amusing The Bodyguard, some DVD-ROM material for those with the capabilities, and a whole host of interviews with seemingly the entire cast and the key players behind the camera. Sadly, given that most of the participants are only allowed a couple of minutes screen time apiece, they are never able to offer anything more than the simple – who they are and who they play in the film. Elsewhere we also find a 10-minute helping of B-roll footage (which, unsurprisingly, focuses solely on the action scenes) and an odd little featurette entitled ‘The Cast of Born to Fight’. I say oddly as all it seems to do is pad out the theatrical trailer with some of the very same B-roll footage and then tell us who the different actors are. Quite why is never explained.

As with the film itself, the featurettes come with optional English subtitles where applicable.

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Last updated: 14/07/2018 19:02:14

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