Born to Fight (2004) – By Cary Conley

So I was looking in the used DVD section at my local Blockbuster (the only reason to go to a video rental store now that Netflix is around, in my opinion) and I saw this flick.  On the cover it read "From the makers of Ong bak and The Protector," two of my favorite martial arts films.  On the plus side, it was only $2.99, so even if it sucked, I could always trade it in at my local used video store, so I decided to take a chance.  I am so happy I did!

I’ve seen some jaw-dropping martial arts films of late, but this may be the most entertaining one I’ve seen, period.  While there are plenty of martial arts fights, this film plays more like a big-budget Hollywood action film than a low-budget Asian martial arts film.  I know Rogue Cinema isn’t about the big budget Hollywood blockbusters, and I hate them as much as the average Rogue reader does, but everyone likes some mindless violence, excessive explosions, and wall-to-wall action every once in a while.

The story is very simple:  a group of Thai athletes visit a remote, impoverished village to donate food, money, and other daily items the villagers need.  Unbeknownst to this group, a gang of vicious drug lords have decided they will attack this innocent village and hold the villagers hostage until their recently apprehended drug chief is released.  Not only do the paramilitary thugs hold the village hostage, but they have also managed to get their hands on a nuclear missile which they plan on firing into Bangkok before they leave the village as a demonstration of their terrible power.  It is up to these simple villagers and the group of athletes, led by one of the athletes’ brothers who happens to be a Bangkok policeman, to thwart the terrorists.

As stated before, this isn’t merely a martial arts action flick; rather it is a balls-to-the-wall, all-out action epic.  This film has it all:  incredible martial arts stunts like jumping from one semi to another as they speed down the highway as well as myriad stunts involving gymnastics and sports equipment because these athletes have to face down the terrorists with what they have on hand.  Everyone gets in on the action, including a little girl who kicks ass as well as a one-legged man on crutches!  Along the way, we also have motorcycle stunts, spectacular wrecks, and explosions galore, including the destruction of the entire village in absolutely stunning fashion.  We also have hundreds of guns and shootouts, with weapons ranging from handguns and machine guns to bazookas.  There are several Mexican standoffs, with one having about a dozen participants.  As they unload their clips on each other, all I could think of was, "Move over, Tarantino, no longer are you the master of the Mexican standoff."  As you might imagine, this film is a bit more violent than the average martial arts epic.  Literally hundreds die, including a couple of outrageous scenes like a man who gets his arm literally shot off as well as one of the evil leaders being blown to bits with a bazooka.

While the plot is fairly simplistic as well as the characterizations, it is easy to follow if a bit stereotypical of Hollywood excess (see the scene where the hero rescues the thug-who-turned-over-a-new-leaf; as they help each other away from the village, the entire village explodes, and we see our two protagonists being lifted into the air and thrown to the ground in slow motion).  But this isn’t meant to be a thinking-man’s movie; this is a mindless action film, and it succeeds in fantastic measure.  The action and fights are non-stop, but the final showdown between the villagers/athletes and the evil drug pushers lasts fully half the length of the film and IT NEVER SLOWS DOWN.

Track this one down and watch it today.  Go.  Now.