Yes, you’ve seen it! Those other well known Thai action movies like Born to Fight & Ong Bak! Remember those jaw dropping, raw thai boxing fight scenes consisting of flying knees and elbow strikes that would of taken down an adult camel?! And what about all those body crunching stunts in Ong Bak that were reminiscent of the original Police Story by Jackie Chan? Well, Panna Rittikrai was responsible for most of the action in those films (not Police Story) and he returns as the director of BANGKOK KNOCKOUT!
The 1st screening of BKO for the NYAFF showed itself on the 2nd day of the festival on July 2nd at Walter Reade Theater! I was definitely jazzed up anticipating to get knocked around with adrenaline as I absorbed the energy from all the extracurricular martial art moves and stunts of BKO! For the most part, the action & fight scenes overcame the cheese of the acting, story, & dialogue. Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting to walk in looking for a dramatical performance of a lifetime, nor was I looking for a story that would best “The Best of the Best” or be so bad which would of made it so good such as “L.A. Streetfighters”. As a matter of fact, both of those films had better acting performances by Phillip Rhee & Jon Chung, sad to say. In my opinion, the acting and storyboard from BKO reeked of flying fish sauce. The first 20-30 minutes of the film were ‘run amuck’ with the stunt team getting drugged up by some transvestite looking food catering staff including a vagabond cross dressing violin player in some remote village location. The bartender also reminded me of Lam Ching Ying on geritol from all of those Mr. Vampire movies from HK. I’m not even going to mention that all of the male actors in this film played the role of stuntmen to perfection. That’s good, you say? Maybe, but they are stuntmen in real life for a reason. They are some of the ugliest ‘mofos’ on screen that I have ever seen which screams NO screen time for you, buddy! Just jump off that 2 story building, and "Roll 'em...CUT!" I’m no Don Ho either, but I’m also not in film! The lead protagonist looked like Hanson meets Lou Diamond Phillips. And that high roller bunch? What a set of international goof balls! Arsenio Hall and John Leguizamo would of been more interesting characters if they wanted to go that route.
Now for the good?! After the prerequisite nonsense of the stunt team competition to finally realizing that the rival teams are fighting for their lives in a fight club-street fighter video game like scenerio, the story or lack thereof gets better! The kidnapping of one of the girls adds a sense of urgency & vengeance to the emotional fire! Suddenly, the go-go action button was pressed as they turn it over to some non-stop fight sequences that we ALL were waiting for! The aerial scene where both teams were trying to jump over to the other steel beam about 30 ft high to greet each other for combat, led to jump kicks meeting flesh in the air as bodies dropped to the ground like a sack of galangal! This scene would introduce us to this life & death competition that would proceed before us as well as an OTB like simulcast in a fancy trailer with a live video feed of the underground fight game so that bets can be wagered to the high brows in a lap of luxury! A buffet of martial art styles were all represented as tae kwan do kicks met the acrobatic-aerial-unorthodox jungle style of capoeira (Brazilian) infused with a bit of monkey style kung fu! The flying thai iced tea full of deadly knees from muay thai would also show thyselves as would the likes of the coiling aspect and redirection of energy which is a specialty of tai chi! The sharp & flowing moves of northern shaolin long fist kung fu would also have a presence! The Bangkok Knockout character that looked like Jason from Friday the 13th had the ‘no pain, you can’t hurt me’ style that resembled Jackie Chan in Drunken Master 2 when he drank that gasoline in the end fight with Ken Lo! The asian looking vampire guy that I mentioned before had some no joke, straight-line kung fu style that resembled wing chun or bak mei pai (white eyebrow system) kung fu! Mr. Vampire had footwork that was real subtle with the hand strikes and defense that teetered towards the sticky hand techniques of wing chun! My favorite fighters from the movie included the character that had the motions of a lizard who always hovered the ground before climbing & moving about like a gecko! He seemed to be using the style of capoeira from brazil mixed in with a hybrid style of monkey kung fu! My other favorite was the kung fu stylist as his outrageous kicks blended in well with the flowing strikes and parries native to the system! The main character had some sweet moves from the korean art of tae kwan do! Some awesome stunts included the motocross cycle sequences, the mad max car running people over, and the fight amongst friends underneath a moving truck! The general bouncing around from prop to prop & building to building using the acrobatic street art of PARKOUR was a sight to behold as well! Parkour is an athletic discipline of navigating urban landscapes while hopping, bouncing, jumping, rolling, vaulting, scaling walls, and the likes! This urban scaling street art sort of reminded me of the early stunts that Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, & their other classmates from the peking opera school would execute! Yes, even Sammo!
I know I threw the movie under the bus in the 1st part of this review, but the fighting choreography, action sequences, stuntwork, & the overall flow of the moving parts of this film sure made up for the rest of the limburger cheese! My final say is that if you appreciate the art of stuntwork and the meshing of intricate fighting arts in a well coordinated manner then its worth your time! Sundance peeps, here’s your chance to jump ship!