I hate when you watch a film that not only feels like a waste of time but when you lament that time could have been spent elsewhere from watching a better film or cleaning the toilet. I knew not to expect an Ong Bak or a Chocolate. Also, I recently enjoyed the Legend of the Tsunami Warrior which was not a great film, but you can see the maturity of the Thailand popular cinema in terms of special effects and film techniques so I was curious on this film. Sometimes curiosity is dangerous.
Many times when you are watching a martial arts film (sometimes this goes with musicals as well) you can forgive an inane plot, idiotic characterizations and pretty much everything else if the fight scenes are sagacious. Usually when they are not it is because you are presented with actors (and/or choreographers) who know nothing about showcasing the proper aesthetics and the artistic ability to convey the beauty that makes martial art cinema great. Sometimes, like in this film, the actors have the martial arts ability, but it is the director, editor and cinematographer that help make this film an irritable exercise in how long can you sit at a time while watching this before you change and watch something else. I can forgive the film quality which has the feel of a low budget TV movie. I cannot forgive (besides the plot) the elliptical editing, the cinematography which seems to be done by a 300 pound ex-alcoholic after running a mile who is suffering delirium tremens, and the soundtrack with exception of the cool Thai rap heard early in the film. Honestly, I have no idea what they were trying to accomplish with the editing. Were they trying to outdo Michael Bay?
The plot was not much better. Here we have Tai (Preeti Barameeanat) a criminal who was set free because of his twin brother's Tan's (same actor) cash contributions that left Tan in a coma. Tan was making money with the underground basketball game called Fireball. Tai takes his identity and gets back into the game to find out who was responsible for his brother's condition as well as try to make money to pay for an operation for his deteriorating brother. In the meantime he is falling for his brother's girlfriend. I like the idea of having an underground basketball game featuring Muay Thai and run by drug lords. But the execution of it could have been better. Allowing weapons to be used really made it silly and stupid. I know I should not be thinking, but who would put themselves into that situation without much money or without having their family held hostage? Ultimately the best situation for this type of game where you win by scoring once (or dispatching all of your opponents) would be to hire very fast players who could score right off of a fast break (even with individuals trying to beat you up) since a good basketball player should be able to do a layup/dunk even with two or three guarding and not getting hit. With full disclosure I am a basketball fan - I have no idea whether that would predispose my thinking one way or the other for this movie.
One of the benefits of lower budget films is that much is done on location. You get to see a lot of city life and as a byproduct of the frenzied fight scenes I found myself enjoying the surroundings more (it is usually a bad sign for a film when you start paying attention to things like background people, possibly product placement and anything but what you are supposed to be focusing on). The attempt at creating a commentary on the social-economic conditions of these youths ultimately did not work because of a few plot threads that either made you to hate the drug lords yet put your sympathy on the one upcoming drug lord who recruited the protagonist and a few others who you get to see a bit of their daily lives.
The Lionsgate release had no issues though it does seem that there are dubtitles - so there is an English dub along with this as well. Special Features include a trailer for the film, additional Lionsgate trailers (Wushu, Death Warrior, Four Dragons, Bodyguard: A New Beginning, Never Surrender) and a Behind The Scenes which lasts around 11m 44s. The Behind The Scenes is in Thai with intercut scenes of the movie in English dub and even has some outtakes and behind the scene footage (where wires are shown). It has the director Thanakorn Pongsuwan talking about the origin of the story, the plot of the film and choice of actors. Also featured are: the producer Sangar Chatchairungruang (can't believe he stated that goal of the film was creating fun), the lead actor(s) Preeti Barameeanat (from Clash Band), actor Sam Kasem (Zing; in real life he is a Thai boxer who fights in Japan) and actor Arucha Tosawat (Tun).