If it's crap ... We'll tell you
John Fung discovers that a client of his is embezzling and flees to the country with evidence. When he's discovered the client sends the notorious Green Dragon Gang after him. Meanwhile, the cops recruit a former officer, Tong (Panna Rittikrai) to track him down.
Born to Fight has a style that is somewhere between a classic kung-fu movie and an exploitation movie. It's extremely low budget, but ultimately I was pleasantly surprised with the overall quality of the film. I was expecting something bordering on unwatchable, and instead I got production values that were really no worse than an early Golden Harvest film. The story itself is a mess of excuses to get from one fight scene to the next... most of which have nothing to do with the slipshod plot. It's slow and confusing and feels made up as it goes. Between how dated and how cheesy it is there's a lot to make fun of... even with the awful "comic relief" character. A "reboot/remake" of this film came out in 2004 and was one of the first reviews I did. There is absolutely no story similarities between it in the original... so I'm not sure why they didn't just give the 2004 film a different title. It had a dude crashing a motorcycle into a truck and flying over the top of it. I would've watched it regardless of what it was called.
The draw here, of course, is the action. Panna Rittikrai was and is a really talented martial artist who paved the way for Tony Jaa to even exist. He's pretty much responsible for the existence of Thai cinema today. The martial arts, fights, and stunts are impeccable for it's day. For. It's. Day. --so much of it looks really dated by modern standards. Stunts with vehicles are obviously done at (maybe) 8 miles an hour. Swords are made out of wood or something, definitely not metal. Panna uses Thai sword style to fight guys using "Chinese" swords at a couple points in the movie... but Chinese swords bend, that's the point of them, subtly change the trajectory of your opponent's strikes without meeting them head on. That doesn't happen so much when you're using a wooden sword. Also, we get an extra long scene of Panna doing martial arts forms, and he's good at them... but when he does Chinese forms he throws in these little hand flourishes like he's playing with glowsticks at a club... really, I'm fine if you want to change something to "make it your own" but don't just throw in goofy hand waving because you think it looks cool. It looks silly. Besides those complaints though, the action is all really impressive. They reshow some of the tougher stunts from different angles and in slow motion, which pad out the film, but really, I don't mind it when the stunts are this good. There generally isn't a lot of suspense in the fights, because it's clear Panna is going to always win... he doesn't have a mano-e-mano fight with someone who's his equal... he's just beating up thugs, but it's impressively done.
I may have liked this much less if I hadn't gone in with such low expectations... but there's a lot of great stunt work and fighting. Panna deserves more international credit than he gets. It's a fun night with a bad film with some good action.I'm beign generous here but....
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