When Judge David Johnson brawls, Judge David Johnson bawls.
Some fight for respect. Others fight to survive.
A Thailand action movie? Oh yes. There's always the possibility for an end credits sizzle reel of the actors being taken away on stretchers.
Facts of the Case
Mike (Jawed El Berni) is a former boxer who transplanted to Thailand to build himself a better life. But his obliviousness is revealed immediately when he's cleaned out by the locals and is left with nothing. He manages to hook up with a fellow fighter and his wife and sees an opportunity to earn some cash in—wait for it—an underground fight club. The two men team up to deploy their bludgeoning skills within the squared circle, yet run afoul of the local crime-lord, eventually forced to take their knuckle-busting to a new level: the abandoned warehouse level.
My ears always perk up when I hear of a Thai actioner making the trip overseas. I don't care if the plot sounds moronic or if I've never heard of anyone involved with the production in my life: Thailand has delivered some of the hardest-hitting smackdowns pressed on an optical disc I've seen. And you never know when the next one might be coming.
Brawl had some promise but, ultimately, it was not the Next Big Thing. It wasn't even the Next Young Men's Husky Thing.
The story does nobody any favors. The underground-fighting-that's-bet-on-by-an-assortment-of-welathy-stereotypes-thing has long been drained of life and the external drama around the mobster is flaccid. Our two heroes are carved from sandstone and can more-than-handle-themselves physically, but as far as characters go, they're about as magnetic as Flan.
When it's time to dispense with the pleasantries and drop the hammer, the film becomes tantalizingly decent. There's a chase scene through a warehouse, displaying some parkour traversal (not unlike in Ong Bak) and a big-ass fight at the end where it escalates to two on thirty.
On paper? Brawl should be good. And the fighters are skilled, especially our two protagonists. The problem comes with the choreography and the execution. The fights come across as too methodical, too scripted, as if we were watching a rehearsal of the action scene. In fact, I'm sitting here, hacking away at my keyboard trying to think of any standout moments and I'm coming up empty.
The DVD: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, Dolby 5.1 Surround, a making-of featurette, and an UltraViolet digital copy.
Milquetoast pugilism. Bummer.
Oh well. Next?
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