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STUDIO: Lions Gate
MSRP: $26.98
RATED:  R
RUNNING TIME:  97 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:
• Making of documentary
• Trailers from other Lions Gate releases

The Pitch

Take the bloody sporting competition of mixed martial arts and place it in the confines of a basketball game.

The Humans

Director:  Thanakorn Pongsuwan


Cast: Preeti Barameenat, Khanutra Chuchuaysuwan, 9 MILLION SAM, Anuwat Jeg, Kumpanat
, Oungsoongnern, Phutharit Prombandal, Arucha Tosawat, Karnnut Samerja, and Karen Superdance.

           
“So get this concept, it’s basketball mixed with team combat”                 

The Nutshell

An young criminal is afforded a second chance when his brother pays to help get him out of prison. When Tai(Barameenat) gets home he finds his brother Tan has been put in a coma due to his involvement in a violent basketball tournament where anything goes. Looking exactly like his brother, Tai is immediately recruited when he shows up on a basketball court under the belief that he is his brother. Obviously, the person who nearly killed Tan is the champion, so all Tai has to do is get to the championship in a sport he has never competed in.

The Lowdown

I knew I was in trouble when I realized that this movie was from the same director as Demon Warriors (aka Opapatika). Given how poorly staged and drearily self serious it was I really didn’t hold out a lot of hope on this one. For the most part very few lessons were learned from that movie in how to make the action terribly engaging nor how to keep the story terribly necessary or coherent. That said, I will say I enjoyed this one a bit more than Demon Warriors.

Using maybe one of the simplest set ups to get us introduced to the world of Muay Thai basketball(a dubious claim, since all forms of fighting seem to be incorporated, even weapons are introduced from time to time), it starts with a brother seeking revenge jumping into a new world unfamiliar to him and us. Perfunctory would be a nice way of putting all the care put into setting up the world here. In fact, the first scene of the film with any humans is Tai at his comatose brothers bed being expositioned to by his brothers girlfriend, the next scene is him on a basketball court immediately being recruited. They aren’t wasting any breath setting up anything not involving violence and basketball, and I can appreciate that in some ways. Action film plots are highly overrated pieces of the overall picture.

                               
“Why did we spend all of our time training in basketball instead of fighting?”


Immediately afterwards, Tai is introduced to the team, Zing (9 MILLION SAM) is the captain of the team, Muk (Oungsoongnern), IQ (Samerja), and the wild card K(Jeg) are the others. To win the game all you need to do is score one basket or be the last one left standing. IQ is their shooter while everyone else tries to clear a path for him. Truth is that what the game ends up being is barely basketball at all. If they had made the game rugby or football the game might have made more sense. Hell, they could have turned this into a quidditch match and it would have made more sense. Basketball is a game of specific components almost none of which are part of what goes on here. Listening to the director talk in the special features it’s clear he is barely sure what basketball even is, referring to it only as a sport that is “popular in America”.

The action itself is definitely a step up from the nearly incomprehensible action scenes of Demon Warriors, I am happy to say. While never really achieving anything near some of the top of the Thai action cinemas best stuff, it wasn’t boring. Much in the same manner as Demon Warriors, fights are very bloody and lethal. Many people don’t survive the games. In fact there are less baskets scored than there are murdered players in the entire movie. In the hands of a movie with more interesting action or a better story, or hell even one with a sense of humor this wouldn’t have bothered me.

This is where we come back to the self seriousness of Demon Warriors. It’s all dreary and miserable. The philosophy of this film seems to be, the greater the need to live the more likely you are to die. We’re given just enough back story on the team members to make you not want to see them killed in senseless ways, just before they do that. Does every action scene have to end with someone we’re supposed to care about getting killed? It’s all the po faced misery of an anime in live action form.

                                  
“This doesn’t seem to actually involve any basketball. Why’d they advertise it as basketball?”


As a whole the actors are a complete non issue. We get only a handful of scenes in the film where any one is asked to do any more heavy lifting than reacting somberly to bad news. At the same time none of the actors draws attention to themselves by being too terrible. Hell, they all look the part and I guess that’s enough.

There are things to like in this film, such as some of the choices in location and atmosphere are effective. As a visual stylist, Pongsuwan has made some steps in the right direction(although, maybe he could learn to calm down with the camera edits) and I hope he keeps it up. Working with better screenwriters might help him produce something more watchable. Although I’d like to ask please, Thanakorn, next time lighten the fuck up. Movies can be fun.

Oh also, 9 MILLION SAM!

The Package

There is trailers for Jackie Chan’s Wushu, Death Warrior, Four Dragons, Bodyguard: A New Beginning, and Never Surrender. It also includes a theatrical trailer and an EPK style making of documentary. Languages are in English dubbed 5.1 and original soundtrack Thai 5.1 with English and Spanish subtitles available. And can’t forget the animated menu and scene selection. It’s the usual DVD.

OVERALL  5.0 out of 10   
                              
“Basketball!”