NYAFF 2011: BKO: BANGKOK KNOCKOUT Review

Ben Umstead, East Coast Editor
[Our thanks to Moko for the following review.]

Look, we all have our dirty little pleasures- types of media that we consume, shamefacedly and in violation of our usual standards of taste, in order to evoke some sort of animal emotion deep in our hindbrains. We read formulaic detective novels, or romance novels; we listen to bubblegum pop or we watch pornography. I watch a lot of martial arts movies, and although a lot of these movies fail, by my subjective judgment, to be "good movies" in the way that, say, I find Apocalypse Now to be a good movie, it's fairly easy for me to ignore lapses in plot, characterization, etc., when someone is doling out Muay Thai whoop-ass. And so it pains me, utterly and completely, to report that BKO: Bangkok Knockout is not just bad, but bad enough that you can't even tune out until the fight scenes.

You can get where they were coming from, though! If movies starring a single Tony Jaa could be so immensely popular, the line of thought must have been, a movie featuring an entire school of Tony Jaa's would be AMAZING! Instead of a single fight in a warehouse, you get several warehouse fights! Instead of a single feisty woman who alternates between being an ass-kicker and being totally ineffectual, you get two! Instead of a single negative stereotype of a non-Thai people, you get something like four, including a foreign-born Thai, and instead of one scene of an irritating comic relief character, you get an entire movie with one. But you can probably see what went wrong- the problems multiply far faster than the benefits.

The plot involves a sleazy, cigar-chomping American businessman, conning a Muay Thai stunt team into a death-match tournament for the entertainment of a trailer full of ethnic stereotype gamblers. There is, of course, a comic relief character, and a nominal star, and two damsels in distress, and a number of betrayals revealed later on that add nothing to the story. There are five or six fights in a disused factory, some running up walls, some thrown vases (why are there always vases around?), and later on two people leap motorbikes into the air at each other, as per, I assume, some sort of guild rule. If you've seen Muay Thai movies before, nothing in the action will surprise you at all- there's no big progress in style, shooting or anything. In fact, if you've seen Muay Thai movies before, you've already seen anything good that might be in this one, and if you haven't seen Muay Thai movies before, I cannot think of a less auspicious start than BKO: Bangkok Knockout.

BKO: Bangkok Knockout has its New York premiere, Saturday, July 2nd at the Walter Reade theater. It plays again Saturday, July 9th. More info and tickets at NYAFF's website.
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