Magnolia Pictures // 2011 // 106 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 26th, 2011
If they want to live, they must fight for their lives.
From Thai action legend Panna Rittikrai comes something that's not so much a coherent film but rather a series of fighting and stunt sequences that endeavor to place the participants in the way of as much catastrophic physical harm as possible.
Not much to report here. A group of extreme athletes is selected by a Hollywood producer to participate in a new TV show. During their celebratory dinner, they're drugged and awake the next day in an abandoned factory. They are pitted against a legion of skilled fighters and their bouts are broadcasted to high-stakes gamblers, who wager on the life-and-death outcomes of the matches. Yada yada yada, MORE FIGHTING!!!
The straight dope, boys and girls: as a movie, Bangkok Knockout is a miserable failure. The story, as molecule-thin as it is, is poorly assembled, with substantial chunks of information missing and scenes melded together without much sense of cohesion. The characters are barely two-dimensional and boast the acting range of a toilet brush. It is a confusing, incoherent, clumsily strewn together motion picture.
However...as a stunt exhibition it is not to be missed.
If you are an action aficionado and, like me, are particularly drawn to the specialty hand-to-hand cuisine that is served up overseas then you must seek out Bangkok Knockout. The insanity that will transpire on your screen defies explanation and, as far as I can tell, it's all real.
When it comes to action films I tend to draw the most pleasure out of on-screen mayhem when I have a connection to the character and his or her circumstances and the stakes resonate.
There is another way to generate suspense and that is to craft sequences of violence where the participants are quite obviously in real danger of paralysis and maiming. Panna Rittikrai, God bless his crazy soul, has opted to employ the second option, discarding elements like a believable plot and nuanced characters, instead setting up a veritable funhouse of lethality and bone contusions. You get fifteen minutes or so of set-up and then it's right into the insanity and it doesn't slow down until the ridiculous final scene where our heroes break out into a dance routine in the ICU. In between you'll get a four-man acrobatic fight in a cage, repeated bouts with an indestructible axe-wielding maniac (who is sporadically on fire), a mid-air dirt-bike joust, guys falling twenty feet onto concrete floors, swordfights, car-fights, pole-fights and an epic battle against a man with asthma. Then there's the ending, a crazy set-up involving two pugilists battling out underneath a moving truck.
The choreography is expertly staged and the brawlers are extraordinarily skilled; what they lack in acting skills they make up for in ungodly athleticism and a sky-high threshold for pain. Best of all, it's all shot with a wide-angled, steady lens, ensuring that you'll be able to soak up all of the stunts without dealing with lightning edits and shaky-cam tomfoolery.
The DVD: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital (English and Thai), a making-of featurette and a collection of behind-the-scenes footage showing the physical toll these stunts took on the performers.
Who cares if no one knows how to do a line-reading? You've never seen anything like this before.
Not Guilty! Oh, and someone call the paramedics immediately.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R