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Original Title:

Thailand 2009

Action, Drama

Thanakorn Pongsuwan

Preeti Barameeanat
9 Million Sam
Khanutra Chuchuaysuwan
Kumpanat Oungsoongnern
Phutharit Prombandal
Arucha Tosawat
Kannut Samerjai
Anuwat Saejao

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Story: Tan (Preeti Barameeanat) is released from prison because someone paid a big amount of money for him. Being free again he first visits his brother Tai only to find him lying in a coma. Tai's girlfriend Pang (Khanutra Chuchuaysuwan) tells him that Tai was involved in some illegal business in order to get the money for Tan's release. He was claiming that he was playing basketball but always got home with serious injuries. Tan decides to find out who beat up his brother so badly and ends up in a odd mafia-like structured organisation that earns its money with a game called "Fireball". A mix of martial arts and basketball. Tai assumes the identity of his brother and works for subordinate boss Den (Phutharit Prombandal) who selects a team consisting of Tai, Zing (9 Million Sam), Muk (Kumpanat Oungsoongnern), IQ (Kannut Samerjai) and K (Anuwat Saejao). The matches are deadly as there are almost no rules and the internal power struggle between the different teams' bosses are another obstacle on Tai's search for the man that beat up his brother.

Review: "Fireball" is one of those films that promise nothing and deliver exactly that. You only have to take a small peek into this movie to know that this is just a B-movie production. Those who think that they are treated with martial arts scenes on the same level as "Ong Bak" will surely be disappointed, everyone else can expect to get adrenaline-loaden fast action that can be fun sometimes, even though it is a guilty pleasure. That is because "Fireball" isn't really elaborate. Nonetheless, there are some serious ambitions of the director that are surprising, for example the fact that everyone of the characters gets a short background story and therefore more plasticity than you would have expected to be possible. Needless to say that this is still not much, of course, but that's just the good thing when you expect nothing at all: You can only be positively surprised.

The story isn't innovative at all. There aren't exactly duels to the death within a cage that rich onlookers are betting on, but instead a brutal game in that mentioned cage which has so few rules that is is actually just a free-for-all brawl. Or a team-fight to be more exactly. At some points the mix of basketball and martial arts is even pretty decent. Furthermore, it's impressive that every player is from another area of expertise and therefore brings a different element into the game. We have a parkour runner, a football player, a basketball player or a Muay Thai fighter. 9 Million Sam (nowadays you are apparently free to choose any name you want...) can be the most impressive of them as he seems to be the only one in the film who has a real martial arts background - and it shows. He has some nice moves up his sleeve and we can only hope that he might show more of them in possible future films.

The different matches are the highlights of the film. However, there are also certain clichés covered, e.g. a game in pouring rain or one at the dockside. The action is brutal and fast at all times. Mostly that is because of the hectical camera work and the fast editing. And that's also where there need to be said some words of criticism. Sometimes the camera is so shaky that you can only see half of the action, a lot of it can only be guessed. Some scenes have obviously been shot with wires, too, which is disadvantageous for movies with a serious action core like this one. Nevertheless, soon the fast cut pictures are accepted as being part of the film's style and at some point you you get used to it. Still, this is also why you shouldn't expect any great action. The few really impressive scenes just haven't been captured adequately. Interestingly enough, a racing of the players through a high-rise and over several rooftops is the secret highlight of the movie, especially since the humor in this otherwise pretty serious movie also gets a chance to shine here.

As already stated there are some more quiet scenes, too, in which the drama is standing in the foreground. Those moments aren't really that annoying and the actors are more or less delivering decent performances. That's more than what you can normally expect from such an action flick. In fact, many of the supporting characters are even pretty charismatic but their little tragedies of life are repeating themselves one time too many in the end and are only distinguished concerning trivial details so that you get the feeling to be simply served some kind of filler between the actual action scenes. Another problem, as it clearly shows in the showdown, is that the villian's introduction is a bit too short. The audience can't develop any real hatred towards him and so the emotional involvement is falling by the wayside. Still, it deserves some praise that director Thanakorn Pongsuwan ("Opapatika") at least tried to bring more substance into the "drama" with Tai and Pang.

Surprisingly, "Fireball" is doing some things just right. The action is fast and hard, the characters have a few edges and somehow the film wants to remind us of "Bloodsport" and Co., naturally. It certainly achieves that. The directing is clean, contrary to the action scenes when it is dirty just the way it has to be, and the soundtrack is surprisingly neat. If "Fireball" weren't cut together as haphazardly and if some additional scenes had fleshed out the relationships between the different characters, it wouldn't be such a guilty pleasure you have with this film. The way it is everything is just a tad too much B-movie and especially the hectical camera work during the action scenes, which admittedly always gives you the feeling to be right in the game, takes away a lot from the overall rating. Average action cinema for fans of the genre. A prequel is said to be planned and maybe some of the teething troubles will be eliminated there.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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