“Born to Fight” – A.J. Hakari

As much as technology has assisted in transporting moviegoers to all sorts of fantastic worlds, there’s one thing it’ll never be able to improve: a damn good fight. Sure, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon wouldn’t have been the same if it hadn’t been for its effects-assisted martial arts. But I’m talking about pure, unadulterated, balls-to-the-walls action flicks, with the kinds of dangerous stunts that Jackie Chan would yawn at in his prime. Born to Fight is just such a movie, in which the stars put their very lives on the line in order to make their action set pieces as real as can be. It’s engaging as hell, not just because of the blood-pumping action but also in appreciating the sheer amount of skill put into pulling such sequences off.

Dynamite Warrior’s Dan Chupong plays Deaw, a take-no-prisoners cop whose fighting skills are a great resource when a particularly nasty villain needs to be taken down. After losing his partner in the midst of nabbing a drug kingpin (Nappon Gomarachun), Deaw decides to take a breather and accompany his sister and a group of athletes on a goodwill mission to a remote village. But peace, love, and charity soon take a back seat to guns a-blazin’, as a group of terrorists proceed to swiftly move in and hold the entire village ransom. Their greatest demand? The release of the very drug lord Deaw just put behind bars. But when Deaw finds out that the group’s nefarious plans include more than just springing another bad guy from the slammer, he sets about fighting back against his captors and inspiring the other villagers to do the same.

In my neck of the woods, I tend to encounter a lot of people who aren’t quite willing to delve that deeply into foreign cinema. After seeing Born to Fight, however, I just might start referring to it as a great first step. For those a little weirded out by the rocket surfing of Dynamite Warrior or Tears of the Black Tiger’s funky visuals, this Thai import bases itself upon a fairly simple, Die Hard-esque premise almost guaranteed to make mainstream movie-watchers on this side of the pond feel at home. But don’t expect Born to Fight to fall into a derivative, predictable pattern that hits far too many of our own homegrown action flicks. The makers of Born to Fight pull off one hell of a bait-and-switch by introducing viewers to a familiar story before assaulting them with some of the craziest, most whacked-out stunts ever seen in a movie (and hyperbole be damned, I mean every word).

If you thought Jackie Chan rolling down a skyscraper was impressive, just watch as Dan Chupong (who’s gonna be a bona fide genre star someday, mark my words) puts himself through more punishment than Steven Seagal’s endured his entire career. The man does enough twirls and backflips in the air to make an ice skater jealous, crashes through countless buildings, and, in one riveting fight, bashes a couple of bad guys with burning logs while they do the same to him. What really helps Born to Fight is that not only is the hero not superhuman, just an extremely talented guy who does take a beating from time to time, but that the villains are a crew of dudes that are not to be reckoned with. Sure, they’re the same obligatory terrorists action movies pull out when they can’t think of a more complex antagonist, but the merciless light in which they’re cast adds a lot to the movie’s overall effectiveness.

True, Born to Fight is more of a quick action fix than a wholly memorable experience on a long-term basis; the cardboard characters and next-to-nil storyline make sure of that. But a brief success is better than no success at all, and for just about every one of its 96 minutes, Born to Fight has a great time kicking your ass six ways to Sunday and leaving you begging for more.

Rating: ★★★☆

-A.J. Hakari

Read more of A.J.’s reviews at ReelTalk Movie Reviews, Classic Movie Guide, and Terror Tube.

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