Today is a terrible day if your a fan of martial arts films. Panna Rittikrai passed away today at the young age of 53. I remember hearing about the Thai action films he had done starting with Born to Fight, but never watched it or considered it much. Then I heard his name at the same time I heard about Ong Bak, and a new young martial artist named Tony Jaa. Upon seeing Ong Bak I was struck by how much the fights had that same devil-may-care attitude not seen since the early days of Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung films, and I loved every second of it. Then came The Protector, and once again Panna stepped up his game, with a finale that was as terrific as it was wince-inducing.
Panna then introduced us to another young star in Jeeja Yanin and her film Chocolate, which brought back visions of the younger days of Michelle Yeoh. Panna has confessed that he was inspired by the films of Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Woo Ping, and it’s very apparent in the way he choreographs his fight scenes, mixing fast paced choreography with bone-crunching stunt work. Then the insanity hit an all new level with the remade Born To Fight and Bangkok Knockout, which showed some of the most craziest stunts I’ve ever seen.
Panna came in just as martial arts films were growing a bit stale and brought an energy that rippled throughout the industry. I had hoped to see what Panna had up his sleeves next, but alas we will never get to see it.We will get two more films that Panna has worked on, A Man Will Rise, with Tony Jaa and Dolph Lundgren and Vengeance of an Assassin with Dan Chupong. I look forward to those films, but with a heavy heart.
We’re going to miss you, Panna, and we will never forget what you’ve brought to martial arts cinema. You’ve inspired many, including myself. Today let’s all watch a Panna Rittikrai film, and marvel again at what he’s achieved.
Thanks for the stunts, Master Panna!