Fireball Review

This import from Thailand blends revenge thriller with sports drama as fresh-out-of-prison Tai (Thai rock star Preeti "Bank" Barameeanant) seeks revenge for his twin brother Tan who is in a coma following a beating he took while partaking in an underground blood sport known as Fireball. A no-holds barred version of basketball Tai is soon part of a fledgling team due to everyone mistaking him for Tan, and not long after winning their first game does Tai uncover his brother’s assailant and some plot developments are put in place to ensure he must help lead his team to the final in order to obtain his revenge without interference. Early on we’re also given sob stories behind the other team members and an equally emotionally charged story behind the comatose’ brother’s girlfriend whom Tai inevitably develops feelings for (I almost thought they would sidestep this predictable plot development but alas it wasn’t to be). The motivations for these characters are outlined early on in a very direct manner which isn’t helped by the cast’s limited range, and is only made worse as the film develops as predictably as you can imagine and with far more off-court drama than is warranted (even in a fairly lean 93 minute film).

You’re probably tired of me bleating on about the story in a martial arts revenge thriller so let’s get onto the good stuff, the action, most of which takes place on the court, though sadly there’s nothing particularly dynamic about the fight and action choreography with the participants’ merely exchanging blows repeatedly while the victor is the one who can withstand the most punishment. To compensate for this fairly sterile form of action the handheld camera is constantly moving (though rather than shaky-cam some form of glide technique appears to be employed). This makes for occasionally stimulating viewing but more often than not it tends to result in poor framing. However, there are moments where the choreography and photography techniques genuinely work together and these make for some kinetic moments (a training sequence in particular is quite well done). It’s also worth noting that like most of the other Thai martial arts films I’ve seen, Fireball is extremely bloodthirsty and the final match is particularly brutal. This might put some viewers off but I found it to be a selling point, bringing some additional impact to the proceedings, that and the final match is also where the choreography and camera placement is the most considered in an otherwise average offering.

A dual-layer disc features an anamorphic widescreen presentation that does a reasonable job with the source material. Detail is a little murky in general and is lacking particularly in shadow but colours appear accurate, black levels are reasonable and there was no obvious edge enhancement. The only language option is the original Thai which you can listen to in 5.1 or 2.0 with optional English subtitles. Choosing the 5.1 I can’t say I was ever impressed with the audio, which although clear and well defined makes hardly any use of the sound stage.

In terms of extras there is a total of 26-minutes worth of material which takes the form of a fairly conventional set of interviews, some raw behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes (mostly cut action sequences), outtakes (action scenes gone wrong) and some TV spots and trailers. There’s nothing of any real value here, but if you were keen on the action then the behind-the-scenes material is worth a look.

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