Review: Born to Fight (2004)


Starring Dan Chupong

Choreography and Directing by Panna Rittigrai

Hot on the heels of Ong Bak (although it must be said it came out before Ong Bak, but got re-released after its success) came this little film starring one of Tony’s fellow stuntmen, one many says is comparable to Tony, Dan Chupong. The Onk Bak team pulled out the stops to bring a somewhat propaganda style flag waving action film. But does it work?

The film opens as undercover cops Sarge, the veteran, and Daew (Chupong), the younger one go to buy drugs from the dealer they have been working when the dealer gets a call from his boss, General Yang, who wants the two dead because he knows they are both cops. This leads to a John Woo-style gunfight that escalates as the bad guys commandeer two big rigs, one with Yang on board. Daew jump from a moving van onto one of them, and what follows is an absolutely insane scene after scene of crazy stunts the likes of which we haven’t seen since early Jackie Chan films, as guys go ricocheting from moving vehicle to moving vehicle, and it’s a mild wonder no one was killed during the filming of this, but it lets you know early one what you’re getting into. There is not a subtle bone in this film.

The chase ends with the two cops stopping both trucks, by running one off of a cliff (!) into a warehouse below, and the other explodes and runs through a shanty town Police Story style and runs into the other truck. Daew gets General Yang out on orders from Sarge, who has been shot and is trying to disable a bomb Yang set, and I’m sure he wished he had paid attention during bomb disarming class, but he didn’t, and Sarge blows up. Of course Daew feels guilty for not being able to get back to Sarge in time, and takes Yang in.

Fast forward to a short time later (they don’t explain how much later), and Daew (I’ve been nice enough to put his name-and anyone else’s- into this review so far. They don’t name anyone until this point in the film!) sits sulking while watching a news program talk about Sarge’s death. About this time his high -pitched-voiced pain in the ass (Sister? Cousin?) arrives to tell him that she has been chosen by the Tae Kwon Do association to accompany a group of sports athletes to give relief efforts to a small impoverished village near the border. For reasons unexplained Daew decides to go with her.

We are then introduced to the rest of the group, which really amounts to “Hi, I’m so-and-so, and I play soccer!” and that’s about it for any character development in this film. We then get into the opening credits where we are treated to a montage of the group arriving to meet the villagers and each of the kind-hearted characters then form some sort of bond with one or two of the various villagers-so you just know shit’s about to go bad. Of course every village has a douchebag, and in this case it’s a guy named Tub, which his name alone makes that his damn destiny, so blame his folks for that. He tries to start shit with Daew after seeing Daew getting goo-goo eyes from the cutest girl in the village, whom Tub wants for himself. Think of an Asian Biff from Back the Future. Of course Tub’s Dad knows he’s a giant dirtbag and proceeds to tell anyone who will listen. No sooner has Tub and his posse stepped off than the crap does hit all kinds of fans as armed mercenaries start running into town shooting everything and everyone in sight in scenes that look lifted right from the last Rambo film.

Dozens of innocent people are killed, including Tum, the village “policeman” and the village monk. Even Tub’s father, the village elder is killed. You know there’s gonna be a serious ass-whupping for all of these guys at some point. Soon the Big Bad guy and his entourage arrive and set up shop, and contact the Prime Minister of Thailand to off an exchange of the villagers’ safety for the return of General Yang. What they don’t tell the prime minister is that they’ve brought a nuclear missile to the town and are going to launch it at Bangkok no matter how it all ends. The local swat team tries to go in, and they only succeed in getting more villagers killed. Daew, Tub and the Gymnast are the only ones still roaming free, and Daew goes to get help , but Tub soon gets captured. Daew sneaks around all day and finds out about the nuke that evening. Before he can leave he gets into a fight with two guards, all holding pieces of flaming wood, knocking the crap out of each other. It’s a pretty decent fight, kind of a Tony-Jaa lite kind of scene (That’s not really fair. It’s been said that Dan is just as good a martial artist as Tony Jaa. We’ll find out when he fights Tony in Ong Bak 3)

Because fighting does cause a lot of noise, Daew is captured as well. The next day Daew challenges everyone to fight or die on their knees. At that moment everyone is like,”Meh, knees are okay.” Meanwhile General Yang is freed and is on his way to the village. While everyone ponders what to do as Yang arrives by chopper, the Thailand national anthem plays on the radio the bad guys have on, and everyone gets jacked-up and goes “screw it”. What follows are tons of actions scenes as the entire village rises up to fight, led by the relief workers. These scenes are well done scenes of carnage and rah-rah cheer the little guy moments. Standouts include Daew’s sister fighing the resident bad guy’s best female fighter, and even a little girl using Muay Thai, channeling Tony Jaa to take out the bad guy who killed her dad. Hell, even Tub gets into the act by killing the leader of the mercs with a grenade launcher. Stallone would be proud.

Daew goes to stop the nuke on his own and gets into a series of fights with assorted baddies, showing that Tony Jaa isn’t the only one who can do those acrobatic flips and kicks. The rocket launches, and falls into the sea, thanks to Daew using the lead henchman’s head to bash the navigation controls. Of course, the nuke means there ain’t no fishing in Bangkok for oh, 100 years. Not to be outdone, the baddies rigged explosives around the entire village to have the town wiped out completely. Everyone gets out just in the knick of time as the village is literally blown off the map. In the end good prevailed against evil, and the people stood together, and kicked much ass.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (6) What martial arts there was well done, but nothing we haven’t seen done by Jeeja Yanin and Tony Jaa’s films, and done quite a bit better.

STUNTS: (10) Sweet lord did they do a great job here. Just watch the closing credits to see what kind of work they did. Haven’t seen this level of devil-may-care stuntwork since early Jackie Chan films.

STAR POWER: (4) Dan Chupong doesn’ t have a lot of charisma, and doesn’t really get a chance to showcase his skills among all of the other actors.

FINAL GRADE: (6) A good ode to the action films of the 80’s. The lack of character development, or even the attempt to do so mars the terrific effort the stuntmen made. No single standout star, kind of a Baa Ram Ewe’s greatest hits album. Not a bad film, but not great either.

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3 Responses to “Review: Born to Fight (2004)”

  1. I have seen this film and pretty much agree with your assessment of it. But I have seen a few decent action films from Thailand (as well as the Ong Baks). Hopefully their film industry is healthy enough to produce a few more…

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  2. […] Review: Bloodsport (1988) Next Review: Born to Fight (2004) LikeBe the first to like this […]

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  3. […] Tony Jaa on the map withOng Bak, and show off just how crazy Thai stuntmen and women could be with Born To Fight. Tony Jaa, at the time, was the answer to the question of who would be the next big martial arts […]

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