Saturday, July 2, 2011

In short: BKO: Bangkok Knockout (2010)

A posse of Thai martial artists wins some sort of competition in the hopes of getting that coveted Hollywood movie contract. Little do they suspect that the following celebration will leave them all drugged and unconscious. Awake again, the group (plus an annoying comic relief fiddler - no, I'm not joking) find themselves in a complex of derelict, budget-conscious industrial buildings.

Soon enough bad guys attack and drag the two women of the group away, provoking everyone to run around in all directions and stumble into various fights and traps.

Everything is - of course - part of an evil plan by the organizer of the competition from the beginning of the movie to let our heroes fight evil martial artists (under the tutelage of multi-talented director Panna Rittikrai) to the death so that a handful of rich racist foreigners can bet on the outcome. There will be much kicking and badly written betrayal before the film is through.

Let's the start off with something positive about BKO: veteran director/action director/producer/writer/martial artist/on-screen bad guy Panna Rittikrai still really knows how to do cheap, sometimes gimmicky, yet always exciting action scenes. There's little of the obfuscation of what's going on in fights that's (unfortunately) still so popular in martial arts cinema on display in BKO, for Rittikrai knows that his audience has come to actually see people doing interesting stuff with their - and to other people's - bodies.

Consequently, whenever the film concerns itself with people jumping, kicking, hitting and setting others on fire, BKO's pretty awesome to watch. It's the sort of martial arts movie that tries to include at least one fun gimmick in each fight, so - apart from the expected - the film has scenes of martial artists fighting a car, martial artists fighting an axe-swinging killer out of a slasher movie (I dubbed him Jason Axe), martial artists fighting Jason Axe while he's on fire, martial artists fighting guys on dirt bikes, martial artists stealing Panna Rittikrai's inhaler, and so on.

Unfortunately, Rittikrai feels the need to pad out an hour of highly entertaining (if completely stupid) action with forty long and painful minutes of boring stuff, mostly in form of making the audience watch the evil foreigners (with quota evil Thai guy, don't worry) sit in a container and talk nonsense, horrid comic relief, and various painful attempts at pretending anybody is interested in the young non-characters played by the young non-actors that are our supposed heroes. I had difficulty keeping these non-entities apart throughout the movie, which surely wasn't made easier by the fact that not one of our heroes has anything amounting to a single character trait, or at least a fighting gimmick. The latter, it seems are something only the bad guys are allowed to have here.

Obviously, regularly stopping the proceedings for a little chat between characters you just want to shut up and fight whenever the film has just become exciting is not exactly a good idea, especially not in an action movie that has nothing else to offer. It's particularly frustrating because the action in BKO is often good enough to let it stand among the best of the last wave of Thai action movies. For me, though, the boring parts suck too much fun out of the film to recommend it.


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