The title of "martial arts action movie capitol of the world" has now firmly shifted from Hong Kong to Thailand. After the Chinese takeover in 1997 the Hong Kong film industry has delivered a couple of outstanding actioners, (both by Stephen Chow: Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle) which were special effects laden (a la The Matrix) rather than concentrating on martial arts prowess. The Koreans made some able stabs at the genre, but were more interested in simulating the American action movie experience or, generating their own, unique take on the popular Japanese horror film.

The Thailand burst out of the box with the one-two punch-elbow combination of Ong Bok and Tom Yum Goong, featuring the unstoppable Tony Jaa. Some might remember Rambo fighting Muay Thai style at the beginning of Rambo 3, but the slowed down and rather boring fight scene that opened that movie would give you absolutely no preparation for the elbow and knee twisting, bone crunching acrobatics of Tony Jaa. Like a combination of Bruce Lee (serious Kung Fu kick-ass) and Jackie Chan (insane acrobatics minus the intentional humor) Jaa makes up for a lack of acting skills with a powerful directness and uncanny martial arts skills. The fact that Jackie Chan made an uncredited cameo in Tom Yum Goong, a passing the torch scene similar to Arnold Schwartzenegger's "Have fun" line to The Rock in The Rundown, confers special honors upon Tony Jaa and his director, Prachya Pinkaew.

Given all that, the floodgates have now opened on the Thai martial arts epic, and the latest to be released in the United States (non-bootleg, that is) is Born to Fight. Known as Kerd Ma Lui in Thailand, it's the story of a small, impoverished village that receives a visit from some famous Thai athletes doing charity work, distributing blankets and much needed food. The terrorists attack. They kill lots of people and take the entire village hostage. They want the release of a scum drug lord General, and they've aimed a nuclear bomb at Bangkok. It's up the the athletes and the villagers to use their skills against the terrorists and stop the a-bomb. The movie is brutal, heroic, patriotic (there hasn't been a scene this heart-wrenchingly dramatic in which a national anthem is played since Casablanca) and absolutely insane. The stuntmen in this movie would have literally had to die in order to do some of these stunts. The outtakes at the end unfortunately don't contradict this statement.

So look no farther for your Kung Fu fix. Unapologetic violence, hyper emotionalism, impossible odds, hideous villains who deserve nothing but death and dismemberment, and shining heroes that shake the pillars of heaven await you.


dailyStrats said...

Loved "Ong Bok"!

Anonymous said...

i watched the clip over and over. The preview has a Grindhouse quality I loved. Over the top violence, a hero's hero, well meaning saps in over their heads, and ruthless,raping stop at nothing villains who need to be taught the error of their ways. It was like a serious "Machete" trailer. Awesome.