Director: Piti Jaturaphat
Starring: Than Thanakorn, Sura Sankum, Sura Theerakon, Pemanee Sungkorn, Amornrit Sriphung, David Bueno
Fighting Beat is the story of Khem and his group of childhood friends. They live on an island tourist destination taking vacationers out diving by day, but entertaining a bar and sparring ring by night. All of them train pretty regularly in Muay Thai, learned from the owner, but certain people train more seriously than others. Theirs is a simple but fun existence and they enjoy the time they have together as co-workers and longtime friends. When foreigners looking to start a Muay Thai boxing camp show up wishing to buy the land, they come into conflict and have to fight to halt the advances of the increasingly malicious antagonists.
As a reviewer who has been disappointed by many Thai action films in the past, I always am a bit wary of pretty much any Thai film which is not from Baa-Ram-Ewe. Unfortunately, Fighting Beat doesn’t do much to change my opinion; rather, it makes me want to watch a better martial arts film. For fans of martial arts movies, you can easily tell if the film you are watching is worth it or not, and after the first fight, I knew I was in for a sigh worthy experience.
It is a shame really, since you can tell that there is real talent in many of the fighters. What the fight scenes lack is flow and staging. The fighters continually pause and have an unsure stance, as if they are waiting for the other to make a move first. The hits lack commitment and show of force, with the fighters pulling punches and some painfully obvious non-hits. The camera thankfully stays back to frame the fight, but when the actual action is sub-par, it makes the faults in the scene so much more obvious. There are quite a number of fights, but until a couple of exchanges towards the end, they mostly follow this unfortunate format.
There are bits of comedy throughout but I personally felt most of the jokes fell flat and seem forced. The inclusion of comedy in the fight scenes is unfortunate as well, especially for the talented fighters being taken down by gags as opposed to a fight. Think of a cross between the scenes of Petchtai Wongkamlao in Ong Bak and a bad 80’s comedy. This the type of martial arts comedy I dislike the most, if the actual serious fights were well done, I could forgive it, but the film was disappointing pretty much throughout.
In the end, Fighting Beat probably isn’t worth many people’s time. It’s got a cookie cutter story, unfunny humor, and lackluster fights. It is gladly a short film at less than 80 minutes, but this was a film I had to fight in order to stay focused. While not the worst MA film I’ve seen, not even the worst Thai MA film I’ve seen, watching bad genre cinema always leaves a terrible taste in my mouth. Wholly unsatisfying and forgettable, I’d say skip it. If some of the good fighters in this get a film with Panna, I’d be willing to give them another chance.