Thailand’s most recognized choreographer-cum-director Panna Rittikrai yet again proves himself to be one of the greatest contributors to the recent wave of Thai New Action Cinema. His latest directing work, Bangkok Knockout, is full of new, breathtaking, authentic fluid action sequences, even without the crowd-attracting martial arts stars such as Tony Jaa, Dan Chupong, or Jija Yanin.
The amazing acrobatic show employs some of Panna’s leading stuntmen, like Sarawut Khamson, son of former Thai legendary action star Chachaphol Apichat and boxing trainer for Angelina Jolie. Stuntwoman for Jija Yanin in Chocolate also comes out from behind the scene and now appears in front of the camera.
The film focuses on a group of nine friends who call themselves The Fighting Club. With their martial art skills, they audition for what they think is a Hollywood stunt job. And thus audience muscles are moved since the film’s start. Of course The Fighting Club wins, and then they have a party. But it turns out to be an underworld gladiator game for villainous millionaires in which lives of the fighters’ families and friends are placed as bets. Fights may begin at any time. They have to be careful in every single minute. And there are always opportunities that their team will be kidnapped as friends may become enemies. They can not trust anyone. Enemies are around. And what happens if they have to fight with the game master, played by Panna himself. Bangkok Knockout is a rollercoaster ride of actions, betrayals, and love.
The two directors Panna and Morakot play their roles well. Each of the nine members of The Fighting Club has their own martial arts styles — Muay Thai, Capoeira, Kung Fu, T-Ching, and Tae Kwan Do, all of which are prominently featured in the film. Most outstandingly, these actors, being true stuntmen, are not afraid to risk their lives to put on an exhilarating, authentic show. Some of the most spectacular scenes include jumping into air, clashing motorcycles in mid-air and fighting under a fast-moving truck. Bangkok Knockout is a masterpiece of junior Tony Jaa.
However, as these performers are stuntmen by nature, they do not yet know how to “act.” Though most of the film’s story and dramatic parts are developed by professional performers like Soraphon Chatree, Supaksorn Chaimongkol, Kiatisak Udomnak, or Pimchanok Luhrwisetphaiboon, there are still many unconvincing scenes. Also, the plot that features an underground betting world of gladiators truly lacks congruence and motives — a problem that has plagued many action films produced by Baa Ram Ewe.