Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Review: Born To Fight

Where ONG-BAK is a traditional martial arts film that strings a series of muay-thai fights and Jackie Chan-style chase scenes together with a simple plot, BORN TO FIGHT is an action film more akin to DIE HARD. That means plenty of John Woo-esquire gun battles and an incredibly high body count, with a sprinkling of brutal stunts. BORN TO FIGHT is not a sequel to ONG-BAK, its not "the next ONG-BAK", its simply a highly entertaining actioner that will keep fans of this director satisfied until TUM YUM GOONG is released.

The opening sequence, featuring people leaping between 2 moving trucks, is reminiscent of similar classic scenes from POLICE STORY. The story then switches gear, seemingly heading towards simple martial arts film territory (our hero is challenged by a local thug over the affections of a girl) before a hail of gunfire signals a massive change in direction.

The next portion of the film is a relentlessly brutal slaughter-fest, as the evil villains randomly gun down villagers without a second thought, to levels you would never see in a Hollywood film. Hans Gruber has nothing on these guys! Finally, after a few false starts and a rendition of the Thai national anthem, our plucky villagers rise up, although quite how they manage to slaughter so many villains in revenge despite being outnumbered, unarmed, and constantly being killed in the gunfire is never entirely clear.

What is clear is that the ridiculously gimmicky "gymnastics fights" are fun to watch, the ball-kicking guys who fire kettles and things at the heads of their enemies deserve a SHAOLIN SOCCER type film of their own, and there's nothing cuter than seeing a little kick-boxing girl kick the hell out of a baddie.

Our hero has a few moves of his own, but the film's focus is wider than ONG-BAK, concentrating on the efforts of a team rather than a lone individual, nevertheless he is the star of two wonderful gun battles shot in single takes without cuts: forget DOOM's first-person-shooter scene, this is the true visual embodiment of the modern shooter game, a breathtaking yet agonisingly short sequence inspired by similar sequences in John Woo's HARD BOILED and John Carpenter's THEY LIVE.

What BORN TO FIGHT lacks in coherence, it makes up for in energy. This is the modern equivalent of the kind of crazy rule-breaking action films Hong Kong could churn out so successfully in the 1980s. And its the perfect appetiser for TUM YUM GOONG to come.

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