It Just Hurts More When It’s Knees and Elbows
There’s a spectacular uniqueness to Thai action films. Evoking Hong Kong cinema in its heyday, there’s just an irresponsible glee to the fight sequences and action set pieces that make their way across the seas from Thailand to my eyeballs. Broken Sword Hero continues the now time honored tradition of brutal Thai action cinema with a fresh new star and a classic old school kung fu-style narrative.
With Tony Jaa well on his way to a massive international career rehabilitation after going off the rails for a while, it’s great to see yet another physical talent emerge as a Thai action star. Leads like Dan Chupong and Jeeja Yanin have held down the fort in Thailand and created some truly jaw dropping stunt and fight work, and now Broken Sword Hero star Buakaw Banchemek arrives on the scene with a blazingly white smile, a chiseled physique that finds itself on screen for probably 85% of the film, and a talent for leaving lesser fighters in his wake. He’s an exciting new Thai star who apparently comes to the screen as an already established star in professional Muay Thai. I’d gladly watch him in future films.
Broken Sword Hero is an origin story of sorts, depicting the rise of Thongdee, one of Thailand’s most famed war heroes and legends. Following his childhood and training as a sort of wandering street urchin who becomes a talented fighter, Broken Sword Hero feels a lot like classic fight films where the student becomes the master. Travelling from master to master, picking up experience in different styles and learning valuable life lessons, Thongdee forges friendships, faces down enemies, and becomes as strong in his values and morals as he does in his varying fighting techniques. It’s a very classic hero’s journey that doesn’t really stand out from the pack in its storytelling. But it’s highly endearing and goes down easy as a result, offering a compelling if generic hero.
What sets it apart, of course, is the uniquely Thai action and battle sequences, which appear to depict full contact fight sequences in many instances, and with flying Muay Thai knees and elbows aplenty. There’s probably half a dozen wonderful fights and set pieces directed by Bin Bunluerit in such a way as to showcase his star’s ability set. The action is clear, high flying, and bone-crunching. It’s also occasionally bloody with swords and guns coming into play, even though most of the action comes down to fisticuffs.
And the bloody action feels somewhat out of place. Broken Sword Hero feels very quaint, depicting a hero who is shy around women, and never delving deeply into the horrors of war or anything like that. It’s a bit of a fairy tale that feels downright family friendly, complete with comedic sidekicks, until a bout of CGI blood stabs crop up here and there.
So while Broken Sword Hero is a great highlight reel for rising star Banchemek, and shows Bunluerit to be a strong action director, it never quite transcends its trappings to be counted among the very best Thai action cinema has to offer. Many of the thrills are there, and this is recommended viewing for fans of Sahamongkhol Film International (which brought us Ong Bak). But it’s not the game changer that that film was. Perhaps because Banchemek is a professional fighter and not a trained stunt actor like some of his fellow leading men and women, you get some great fights, but not as many jaw dropping stunts as someone like Jaa might bring us. That said, it sure looks like it hurts when he’s dropping a flying elbow on top of someone’s dome.
Barebones as a package, all you’re getting here is the film on Blu-ray and DVD. Fortunately, the movie does look quite nice, shot mostly outdoors with an ancient Thai feel to it that gives it lots of unique visuals, vistas, and visages. The action is clear and crisp and while it’s not a flashy high budget film, it certainly benefits from the high definition viewing experience. This is a rock solid HD rental recommend for Thai action fans. The barebones Blu-ray release probably isn’t something you need to rush out and buy, but you could do a lot worse.
And I’m Out.
Broken Sword Hero hits Blu-ray and DVD Oct. 31st, 2017 from Well Go USA