Directed by Panna Rittikrai
Written by Panna Rittikrai, Dojit Hongthong and Jonathon Siminoe
It comes as a bit of a shock to say that Bangkok Knokout is the best Kung Fu flick of this year’s Fantasia. It’s not as surprising to say that it includes the best martial arts and the best stunt work of the Festival. Thailand has been bringing the world the most bone-shattering, dirty, dangerous martial arts work since 2003’s Ong Bak and much of the credit for that can go to Panna Rittikrai, director of Ong Bak and Chocolate – or to put it another way, the man who introduced the world to Tony Jaa and Jeeja Yanin.
But great fighting by itself does not make for a great fighting film. The problem with most Thai films have been their weird and frequently incomprehensible plots:
The team (and Joy’s bodyguard) must rescue her with the cameras rolling and the other stunt team challenging them to fights to the death along the way. The footage is being watched by a group of decadent gamblers who bet for and against the team in fights set up by the event producer.
It’s a simple plot, well-executed. It places Bangkok Knockout firmly in the tradition of Kung Fu flicks, but also part of the newer tradition of urban survival horror films like Battle Royale and $la$her$. The film even acknowledges that debt by making one of the opposing stunt team a metal-mask-wearing, axe-waving psychopath.
Of course, saying that Bangkok Knockout is the best Kung Fu flick of this year’s Fantasia is damning it with faint praise. It’s competition is the weakest in years: Ip Man: The Legend is Born was a
Compare that to Fantasia 2010, when Gallants, Little Big Soldier and Bodyguards and Assassins were all not just great Kung Fu flicks, but great films full stop and every one much better than all the Kung Fu flicks featured this year.
Bangkok Knockout‘s greatest weakness is that it does a very poor job of developing its characters. It has a big cast and not much personality to go around. Worse, the film (with very few exceptions) does not allow the actors to express their characters through their martial arts. The best fighting films (like say Brawler from this year’s Fantasia) allow their characters to express who they are through how they fight.
Despite its weaknesses, Bangog Knockout is the best Kung Fu flick of this year’s Fantasia line-up and one of the best Thai martial arts films to date.