Born To Fight (1984)

Born to Fight poster

Born to Fight poster

Panna Rittikrai stars in one of his most successful movies and arguably his best performance. Initially released way back in 1984, we journey back to a time when Tony Jaa’s master was wowing audiences all over Thailand!

Cast

Panna Rittikrai stars as Tong, a retired cop. Here in this movie, we pay close attention to his leading role, along with his expert stunt team.

Plot

Sian-fong is a lawyer for a family empire with criminal links. When he stumbles across delicate information, he ends up on the lam. Returning home to find a tragedy, he decides his life is no longer secure in Hong Kong and decides to journey to Thailand.

Here, Sian-fong goes to a friend’s house and asks for help. After explaining his predicament, he then tells his friend that he is going to stay with Uncle Jam. His friend says that he cannot take him. However, his teenage partying daughter Nan appears out of nowhere to assume the responsibility.

After they have left, a group of masked men turn up at Sian-fong’s friend’s house. Enquiring his whereabouts and not liking the answer, they proceed to mercilessly destroy all the house’s occupants!

Panna Rittikrai as Tong, now appears. He is training two young children in stick and knife fighting before demonstrating his own skills. A man appears and tells him that they are trying to find someone from Hong Kong. Tong is hired to locate him. Having trouble getting started, Tong decides to track down an old friend called Ruay. I must say this guy is highly peculiar with an odd voice! This guy is always in trouble, usually debts! However, he is someone handy to know as he is resourceful. Tong, with the aid of Ruay, seeks out transportation and hit the road looking for clues.

Meanwhile, Uncle Jam has a family dispute with a nephew of his, over a business deal. This guy is a powerful man… someone you don’t want to mess with! During a sequence of events, Tong and Ruay are involved in a brawl and a case of mistaken identity. The movie changes direction when Tong and Ruay find themselves in a difficult situation -it seems that fate has paid an unwelcome visit…

Action

The first fight is at the house of Sian-fong’s friend. Five ninjas appear to wreak havoc in destructive fashion. Here we see these people taking on not only one-on-one situations, but also multiple attackers! Lightning fast strikes, sweeps and even an instance of iron-shirt technique are showcased here. A great start to the action in the movie!

As we change location now, we see Panna Rittikrai in action for the first time. To begin with, we see him teaching two young children. Tong takes over with his own display of Thai boxing techniques and Thai swords. Next, we see him entertain Chinese kung-fu. We see him go through movements with some of the animal styles, before moving onto drunken style. Tong now switches to the single Chinese sword showing his mastery in weaponry. (Many of you will notice moves from Ong-Bak/Tom Yum Goong here.) Next he moves onto the bo staff. Tong shows off in style here however, his entire repertoire is about to be tested when five opponents appear…mysteriously!

We see the two pick up wooden swords and proceed to go at it in a distinctively kenpo/samurai style… Tong’s opponent is no match for him, and is easily out-thought and out-classed with some truly intelligent chess moves to finally disarm him! The confrontation turns into a fisticuff battle. Kicking his opponent and barely using his hands, he knocks his opponent to the floor. Thinking it is over, Tong gets sucker kicked in the side of the head! Tong knocks his opponent to the ground and runs up to him to deliver a good old fashioned stomp kick to the back of the head. Lights out!

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His next opponent challenges him to a duel involving a Chinese sword. Tong responds by picking up twin Thai swords. The two are evenly matched. As if things weren’t hard enough, Tong decides to swap weapons. Now comes the bo staff! Tong masterfully displays his lightning abilities not only with the staff but, also with the speed of his hand movements. Blink and you’ll miss it! Tong now, full of cockiness undermines his opponent, who deservedly gives him a few slaps around the chops…That’ll teach him to respect his opponent!

The third opponent is treated to Tong’s version of Chinese snake style. After giving him a few blows, his opponent pauses to lift his leg up for a brief Tae Kwon-Do flamingo stance! As the two collide, knocking each other to the floor, Tong is the first to react and swiftly jumps through the air to deliver a double pronged knee kick attack! His opponent is finished…brutal moves from Panna…

The fourth opponent stands tall and strong like an iron statue. Tong’s attacks have no effect…until he drops a spinning kick on the back of the guy’s neck…ouch! and goodnight!

The fifth and final opponent challenges Tong to a stick fight. The two go at it with a few blows thrown into the mix. However, his opponent loses his staff and proceeds to go toe to toe with Tong. Tong is getting tested for the first time and is not looking too pretty! He manages to turn the tide with a brilliant reverse elbow out of nowhere, which leaves his opponent seeing stars. This is Tong’s moment to finish the guy off with a powerful and well placed jumping knee to the temple. This is all an appetizer for the later things to come!

The next fight scene is where Tong is confronted by half a dozen men that are trying to rob him! Here he wastes no time in delivering swift self-defence! Toe punts, sweeps and even my personal favourite: a running, jumping, swinging right-hook with, full contact all make an impactful appearance here!

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Later on at an outside road cafe, we see Tong and Ruay get involved with a couple of teenage punks. These guys though, are absolutely hilarious! Knocking themselves out in comedic fashion, they return with their gang leader and his back-up. As the first one attacks Tong, he is dispatched by Tong in comic style –a unique and funny way to deal with trouble! After chest kicking his friend to the floor, Tong starts swinging the feet out. Taking them all out with lightning double kicks-side and round, he proceeds to decimate one of them in the forehead with a forearm smash-yikes! Continuing to guillotine his way through his opponents, Tong cleverly uses objects on the floor to pre-empt their attacks. When one of them gets too close, he drops him with a solid front kick to the knee -which looked like it really did hurt -awesome! Tong begins destroying people off tables! This starts with some explosive twitch kicks that end with one going straight in someone’s jaw before, getting kicked so hard the momentum takes him through face and forehead first into the side-top of a wooden table! Wincing doesn’t begin to describe when I first saw that. As one guy gets up when really he should have stayed down, he is greeted with a jumping, swinging hook punch which sends him sprawling to the floor! Lastly, Tong delivers a few kicks to one opponent while finishing him off by introducing some unique locks, holds and throws. Unorthodox…but effective!

The set-up to the finale starts with Tong and Ruay being chased in their van by a dirt-bike gang. A fight starts on top of their moving vehicle. Tong throws the guy off the top, but he too takes a tumble and lands near his head -great stunt! Tong restarts slapping thugs off the top off his van only to have to think again…more riders are on the way! Attacks from all sides result in Tong delivering pushing front kicks, flying knees, round kicks and even chambered front kicks, now Born To Fight is really starting to gleam! We are even able to see Tony Jaa’s split kick over a motorcycle. This guy it seems, can do it all!! After commandeering a motorbike, Tong has to think again after he gets his comeuppance. Struggling to get up he manages to do so…only having to deal with a petrol fuelled raging bull attack which, he deals with elegantly (pun intended!) by way of a running jump kick to the clavicle. Well executed!

Tong manages to escape on a motorbike…only to be chased down! Kicking one guy off his bike into a river, Tong cannot dodge everything and takes a thunderous blow off his bike and is sent flying straight/sliding onto the top of a parked pick-up truck -Wow! Cleverly feigning injury, he commandeers another vehicle and proceeds down the road. Now this next bit had my jaw hitting the floor…not only was it brutal but so unexpected. So unexpected that I will not divulge what happens, only to say that you MUST see it for yourself!

Finally we arrive at the climax of the movie – the final showdown. Tong must display everything he knows or, be another lost soul in the wind. We see kicks, clinches and knees to the gut! Weapons use arise again, until natural surroundings dispose themselves to Tong’s advantage. Quick thinking! Now Tong is really mad and thus starts the furiously, unrelenting sequence of stomping through people, but not in the way you would normally think. A pleasure to witness..Tong has snapped! It’s here that the power moves come out to play…Tong delivers it all. A fantastic end to a brutal movie…

Summary

Born To Fight is a unique picture. In its own right it has to be viewed as an early pioneer into Thai action. While superseded by Ong-Bak, it’s still well worth watching to satisfy curiosity surrounding the earlier evolution of Thai martial action in the 1980’s. You can see why these movies have become so popular having influenced a new generation – Tony Jaa being the most famous example. OK, so story wise, it’s nothing to write home about, needless to say, this is not why we watch action movies! Panna Rittikrai shows his expertise which still stands up to this day. Great action, insane stunts where I actually thought someone had died, make this a movie you have to see. You could say that this is the real Ong-Bak prequel in essence!

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Trivia

  • Did you know that Panna Rittikrai and Tony Jaa both attended the same stuntman college?
  • Tony Jaa threatened to commit suicide if Panna Rittikrai didn’t accept him as a student!
  • This movie spawned two sequels.

Film Rating: 8/10

Amardeep Sidhu is a (very!) long time martial arts movie fan. On watching "Enter The Dragon", at five years old, became fascinated with Bruce Lee and by eight was hooked on the main man (Jackie) CHAN's movies! He has studied Taekwondo as his primary base, as well as mixed shaolin kung-fu, southern praying mantis, wing chun and capoeira. He is a keen movie watcher with a serious appreciation for fight choreography!

1 Comment
  1. Reply
    Brad Curran November 27, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    Well-written review, sir! I first saw “Born to Fight” about about a year and a half ago, literally after seeing it out of the corner of my eye in the Action section at the local MovieStop. I knew of Panna Rittikrai and his tutelage of Tony Jaa, so seeing where the mentor started was certainly a no-brainer, and stumbling across something that good that has been around for that long is truly a case of X-marking the spot!

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