Thailand is quickly becoming what Hong Kong used to be — a reliable source of offbeat, violent, and relentlessly exciting action movies. The sensational Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior set the bar very high for subsequent Thai actioners, and for much of its 96-minute running time, I didn't think Born to Fight – a 2004 release finally making its North American debut on DVD – met that standard. And then, in the last half hour, came thirty of the most jaw-dropping moments I have ever seen in a movie.
Born to Fight is basically an Asian variation on the Die Hard formula (Thai Hard, perhaps?), with a lone hero taking down a gang of violent, sadistic terrorists who have taken an entire village hostage in the hopes of freeing the drug lord our star put away. After a rousing opening involving martial arts fighting atop (and on the side of) two speeding tractor-trailer trucks, the film is somewhat bogged down by scene after scene setting up what's really a pretty simple plot. I can understand why the filmmakers wanted to portray the doomed village as peaceful and carefree, but the scenes of happy children go on, and on, and on, before the villain (who bears an amusing resemblance to Hugo Chavez) finally shows up.
During its first hour, Born to Fight really isn't anything special. But when hero Dan Chupong (who is extremely skilled, but not quite Tony Jaa) finally convinces the captives to start fighting back, the film goes completely wild. Many of the hostages were members of the national sporting teams who use their gymnastics and soccer skills to kick the terrorists' asses, and it's absolutely stunning and hilarious to watch. (Gymkata is now only the second best gymnastics/martial-arts movie ever made.) I thought I had seen it all, until I saw some unfortunate bad guy in a guard tower taken out by a soccer ball from 100 yards away.
Born to Fight would be essential viewing anyway, but Dragon Dynasty's DVD set contains quite a few bonus features as well – two behind-the-scenes documentaries, the original Thai-language trailer, and an audio commentary from Hong Kong action-movie expert Bey Logan. (Make sure you watch the closing credits, too.) The film's budget probably wouldn't cover the catering bill for the next Die Hard movie, and occasionally it shows – but few Hollywood summer blockbusters are this exciting.