Most martial arts and action films share one thing in common; the action scenes are usually pretty well developed while everything else is either weak in comparison or just flat out poor in quality. This is especially relevant when it comes to foreign action films. One could make the argument that you don’t go into a film like this for Oscar-worthy performances or a thought provoking story and that is true, but when you come to the realization that your dog that spends all day chewing on its groin probably could’ve written a better story or when you’ve seen better acting come out of that geriatric man plagued with tremors when he greets you during one of your shameful trips to Wal-Mart then it becomes a bit of an issue. That is actually a great way to describe BKO: Bangkok Knockout; a shameful experience that’s about as entertaining as chewing on your groin.
The story is pretty atrocious. It’s almost on the verge on pain inducing. It’s that bad. Two fight groups square off for a chance to go to Hollywood and make it big. If “So You Think You Can Dance” was actually “So You Think You Know Martial Arts” then that is exactly what we’d have here. The team you’re expecting to win does and they go off to celebrate, but oh no! They’re drugged and wake up the following morning in a strange place without their cars or cell phones. It turns out that this is what they were competing for. This is the show they were so desperate to be a part of. It’s like The Running Man filled with two dozen people who can’t act, but can fight like CRAZY. Now our winning team, team Fight Club, are just trying to survive the endless supply of fights, challenges, and mostly just struggle to survive this hell they’ve been tricked into participating in.
BKO tries to throw a few twists in near the end of the movie, but it’s nothing you can’t see coming a mile away. Not only that, but it’s done to death. Oh, did you not like that the first time? Here’s the same twist two more times to make it really redundant. The last one involves a character you don’t even care about. There’s this character in the movie who’s a wedding singer and is basically a Thai version of Pat from “Saturday Night Live.” Is it male? Is it female? You won’t care. You’ll just want to see this THING have its face shoved through the hood of a car. Then there’s this fight scene that involves a man in drag who’s also addicted to pain that is just incredibly peculiar. It’s as if they were aiming for it to be entertaining, but it came off as if it was directed by Buffalo Bill. That may sound intriguing at first, but once you get that lotion in that basket and he tucks it in then it’s mostly just sad.
The acting is about as pleasant as nails on a chalkboard. Even when everyone acts and talks in their native language, every scene is littered with overacting. Then to make matters worse those scenes are dragged out so the torture lasts even longer. But then they decide to throw a bunch of English dialogue in there spoken by people who can barely speak it. It’s all just very underwhelming and its ridiculous charm runs thin extremely fast.
BKO does deliver some entertaining fight scenes, but it feels like an eternity before we ever actually get to that. A few exciting things are teased, but nothing really fully gets underway for about forty minutes. We have too much of the lame story to experience in the mean time. But it becomes very clear that not everyone in the cast is as skilled of a fighter as some of the others. The two women who try to keep up with the men are pretty bad in comparison, especially the actress who plays Joy. Her fight scenes are sloppy, slow, and/or very obviously sped up to try and keep up with the pace of the rest of the film. However most of the fight scenes are worth seeing. The cage fight is easily the highlight of the film while Lerm’s fight with the man in the iron mask is pretty incredible, as well. There’s a fight involving water, an axe wielding man who gets lit on fire only to continue fighting., and a Mad Max inspired car that has about a dozen people get shoved through it in all of the crazy mayhem.
If you loved Ong Bak, then this may be worth looking into for the rather jaw-dropping action sequences. Otherwise you probably won’t really enjoy it too much. The story is terrible, the acting is worse, and the dialogue just makes you wish you could knock yourself out from experiencing it any further. Then to top it off the women can’t act or fight and there’s this really annoying man-girl that gets on your last nerve. BKO: Bangkok Knockout does have some good buried deep within its layers of nearly unbearable inadequacies, but does the rubbish it shovels down your throat in the meantime make the entire journey worthwhile? You’ll have to be the judge of that.
Special features are pretty slim. There’s a Making of BKO: Bangkok Knockout featurette that’s about fourteen minutes long. It’s mostly just a good portion of the cast talking about how things came together for them to be part of the movie. Things discussed in the feature include the meaning of the title, diversity of fighting styles, the movie taking two years to develop, this being the first action movie for Spuksorn Chaimongkol (Joy), Kerttisak Udomnak (Wanchai) doing his own stunts, Pimchanok Leuwisedpaiboon (Fern) discussing action scenes, Chachapol Kulsiriwoottichai (Pod) telling the story of how he seeked out the part, Tanarit Wongsuwan (Pom) talks about incorporated all of his training into one fighting style, Sarawoot Kumsorn’s (U-Go) water fight being unrelenting, and Puchong Sartnork (Eddo) participating in free running and using that as part of his fighting style among many other things. A Behind the Scenes featurette is a little over ten minutes in length and is mostly an in-depth look at many of the big fight scenes in the movie while they’re being filmed. The cage fight, the fall, Joy being tied up, the pole fight, Pod and Joy’s fight with the ninja, the rumble scene near the end featuring everybody, and the man catching on fire are all in there. What’s interesting to notice is that all the fights look to be real. Every punch, every kick, every fall taken was actually taken by the actors. Injuries seem to be minimal and usually just involve somebody taking a kick improperly or their finger bleeding. Lastly, a one and a half minute trailer rounds out the twenty seven minutes or so of special features.
BKO: Bangkok Knockout is rated R for violence and strong martial arts action and some language. It’s available in languages English and Thai with English or Spanish Titles, is available in 5.1 Dolby Digital sound, and presented in widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is approximately 106 minutes long and should be available in both retail stores and most online retailers now.