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Is it just me, or does there seem to be another Asian action epic appearing every week these days? The success of films such as Hero and House of Flying Daggers has paved the way for the theatrical and DVD release of all manner of Asian films, such as the magnificent Oldboy, Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle and the recent Thai beat-‘em-up, Ong-Bak. Now Momentum Asia bring us Born to Fight (from the team responsible for Ong-Bak), which promises to deliver enough action to keep even the most demanding of fight-fans happy.

Born to Fight

Feature


The film opens with Special Forces officer Deaw (Dan Chupong) witnessing the murder of his best friend and superior officer, Major Puntakarn Ritdamrong, at the hands of a notorious drug baron, General Yang, during a routine drugs bust. Although Yang is captured and imprisoned, Deaw is left unable to perform his duties and decides to takes some time out from the force. He accompanies his sister, Nui (Kessarin Ektawatkul)—who just happens to be a Tae Kwon Do champion—and a team of elite Olympic athletes to a charity event in a small village on the Thai border. Not long after they arrive the village is invaded by an army of mercenaries armed with a nuclear missile, who either kill or make hostages out of everyone in the village and then blackmail the Prime Minister to release General Yang. With the missile aimed at Bangkok and time fast running out, it‘s up to Deaw, Nui and the rest of the athletes to use their formidable skills to lead a revolt against the invaders before it is to late.

Born to Fight starts off at a break-neck pace and barely lets up for its brief ninety minute running time. In fact, there’s so much action at the start it is a full sixteen minutes before the opening credits roll. Some of the action scenes are, for want of a better word, insane, especially the opening fight atop a couple of speeding trucks. The way in which seemingly deranged stuntmen hurl themselves off of the trucks, bouncing off of others and just narrowly avoiding being crushed under the wheels is something to behold. Think the freeway scene from The Matrix Reloaded without the use of wires and CGI and your somewhere close. It really is an impressive sight. Then there’s the scene in which Deaw and a couple of mercenaries beat seven shades out of each other with flaming pieces of wood, all apparently without the aid of padding—mental. And things just get better—or worse, depending on your point of view—from there.

Born to Fight
The film is also surprisingly violent. I have to admit to being quite startled by the unexpected mercenary attack on the village. One moment I’m watching an expositional scene, the next all hell is breaking loose with blood and body parts flying everywhere. People are indiscriminately and mercilessly gunned down, while children cower and beg for their lives. It’s pretty brutal stuff. Born to Fight is also a very nationalistic film, with plenty of slow-motion flag waving and proud singing of the Thai national anthem.

As one might expect, the acting isn’t exactly going to win any awards, but let’s face it, that’s not what this film is about (and American action stars have been getting away with it for years). However, for all his athletic prowess, Dan Chupong has an unfortunately high pitched voice, which makes it slightly difficult to accept him as a strong leading man. In fact, if you close your eyes the only clear way to tell him apart from his on-screen sister is by her incredibly annoying, whiney voice (ok, so I’m exaggerating for comedic effect, but you get the idea).

Video


Momentum Asia presents Born to Fight in its theatrical ratio of 1.85:1, complete with de rigueur anamorphic enhancement. On the whole this is a respectable effort, with no obvious signs of print damage or other film artefacts. There is a little more grain than usual evident throughout the picture, but certainly not enough to drive the viewer to distraction. Colour rendition is acceptable throughout, although some scenes appear to use a stylised colour palette, and contrast and black levels are fine. Shadow delineation remains acceptable during the few scenes set at night, although it is then that the aforementioned grain is most evident. I didn’t spot any digital nastiness such as edge enhancement either, and overall this is a good transfer of a low budget film.

Born to Fight

Audio


Born to Fight arrives with the option of either Dolby Digital 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1 soundtracks. For the purpose of this review I opted to listen to the DTS track. It’s a pretty lively affair, with pumping electronic score that drives the action along and plenty of discrete action both up front and in the rears. There are gunshots aplenty, things blow up with satisfying ‘oomph’ and there are some nice ambient effects to add a little atmosphere to the proceedings. Dialogue remains clear for the majority of the film, but there were one or two occasions when it becomes indistinct. Still, this is perhaps understandable given the amount of pyrotechnics on display.

Thankfully the subtitles are clear, free from grammatical errors and seem to offer a pretty accurate translation (I never got the impression that I was reading ‘dubtitles’). This is very important to me, as I hate it when distributors ‘Westernise’ people names and use colloquialisms that simply don’t fit.

Extras


The disc feature a number of supplemental features to keep you entertained after the film itself has finished. First up we have an ‘On the Set of Born to Fight’ featurette, which runs for just over ten minutes. This is basically a behind the scenes featurette that takes a look at the filming of certain key scenes from the movie (such as the flaming stick fight, a number of vehicular crashes and various people being blown up). Are these stuntmen crazy? Put it this way, the on-set doctor had her work cut out for her!

Born to Fight
Next Up is ‘The Cast of Born to Fight’, which runs for a little over five minutes. Set to the same driving, pumping music used in the film, this sequence introduces you to the stars by way of clips from the film and behind the scenes material. Each actor is shown in turn, along with a brief text description of their respective sporting talent. It’s staggering to think that virtually every one of the principal cast is a champion at their respective sport (right down to the little girl who is a junior Thai boxing champ—she could kick your arse).
 
Cast interviews come next, and run for over twenty minutes. Things get off to a bad start when the subs spell some of the actor’s names incorrectly, but at least the interviews are informative. Most of the principal cast are here, including the lovely Kessarin Ektawatkul (Nui), and we even get to hear from the director and producer. I was pleasantly surprised by these interviews, which are a lot more informative than the usual fluff you find on such releases.

A series of trailers for this and a number of other Thai action flicks completes the main package. I was particularly impressed by the Ong-Bak trailer. I still haven’t seen the film, but if the action in the trailer is anything to go by I should probably check it out sooner rather than later.

Those of you with DVD-Rom capability can also look forward to a couple of .pdf documents devoted to the cast and the Thai film industry, along with a Born to Fight screensaver.

Born to Fight

Overall


Born to Fight is an enjoyable action romp, but it’s certainly not going to win any awards for its paper-thin plot or the performances of the cast. In fact, if it wasn’t for the outrageously good stunts Born to Fight would be little more than a sub-par action flick. That said, it’s not supposed to be a dramatic work of art, and those very stunts elevate it above the run-of-the-mill genre movies that Hollywood has been churning out for years. The disc itself represents a competent effort on the side of Momentum Asia, with a pleasing transfer, pumping audio and an interesting, if small, selection of bonus materials. Perhaps not the best Asian film to hit these shores in recent times, but if you’re an action junkie looking for your next fix you could do a lot worse than Born to Fight.

Unfortunately I must have a moan before I go. Like most Momentum releases, this disc includes the dreaded FACT ‘anti-piracy’ trailer. Is it just me, or is it one of the most annoying things ever to sully television screens? It also manages to focus on completely the wrong target audience. Hello? I’m seeing this patronising message because I’ve bought and paid for the disc! What’s up with that? Why not hang posters up at car boot sales where they might actually reach the bulk of people who deal in counterfeit DVDs? Oh, and while I’m at it, please stop using prohibited user operations. I’m sure you think your logo is pretty, but I don’t want to sit through it every time I want to get to the main menu. There, I feel better now.


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