The Thai filmmakers have reall taken on the mantle of Hong Kong cinema now that Jackie Chan and Jet Li have gone American. Yeah, they still go back and make Chinese language films, but the Thais are doing the crazy moves that went unchecked in the Hong Kong movies of the ‘80s. Even without Tony Jaa, Bangkok Knockout is full of pure wild thrills.
A stunt team calling themselves “Fight Club” wins an audition to work on Mr. Snead (Speedy Arnold) in America. They end up drugged and wake up in a warehouse and their friend Joy is kidnapped. It turns out Mr. Snead runs a gambling ring where his wealthy clients bet on which of the Thai stuntmen will survive his house of traps and fights with bosses.
The story is the perfectly simple thriller in the vein of Saw with a sick motivation for the villains. There’s a tournament bracket of sorts, who will win each round, and a time limit. Not that we necessarily know how many bosses there will be or how much time is left, but we know at some point they’re going to beat every fighter in the house to get out.
Pod, the leader of Fight Club, Parkours around the walls. Ed flies around a cage as he battles his opponent. Fern can fight for herself too. The warehouse gives them plenty of tires and metal rods to fling. It would be nicer if they built a pretty set and then destroyed that, but it’s okay. Use what you’ve got, and a warehouse is easy to film. Maybe next time.
The bosses are crazy characters including a cross-dresser and at armored up warrior. You’ll see oil ignite a boss on fire and he keep fighting. Take that Maniac Cop 2. The climax under a moving truck is a real wow moment.
The English speakers are laughable as they struggle with the language, and characters like Sampong are just annoying as they whine and blubber on. It’s the Thai equivalent of the seat cushion kid in Rumble in the Bronx.
I love movies that are just showcases for fights and stunts. What a unique spectacle that film can capture gifted artists on display. There are lots of other movies that do other things, whether articulate stories or emotional journeys. Those are great too, but Bangkok Knockout takes us on a visceral journey.