Muay Thai Chaiya looks like your average cokkie cutter martial arts film. At first, I thought this film was connected around martial action with some revenge among protagonists in its usual kind. However, after having finished watching it, this film is far beyond my expectation for this kind of film I have seen in years since I find my accessibility to this film quite unique. The plot goes a little bit like this: Pow grew up to become a great fighter in a small town fighting camp. Muay ChaiYa is his pride but not appreciated by everyone around him, except his closest friends, Piek and Samaw. One day, his long-lost father returns and trains the trio as the last group of fighters to take on the best. The movie takes place over the course of years during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The film switches between the tournament and a subplot of mafia and corruption. Additionally, besides the director sparking off his promising career, the performances, by many leading actors and supporting actresses, also do a commendable job. As Piak and Samor become more deeply involved in the underworld, enforcing gambling debts, it almost plays out like a like a Thai version of Goodfellas. That is a good thing since this film has plenty of elbow room to breathe clocking in at over two hours in length. Muay Thai Chaiya offers a variety of fighting styles including bouts with sledgehammers! There’s a big bloody showdown, with Piak hacking his way into the boxing stadium using two-handed Thai swords, and facing off against a Bruce Lee look-alike who even pulls out a pair of nunchuks to try and show who’s the better fighter. It was amusing to see all of the Chinese depicted in this movie as untrustworthy greedy crooks.
The no-CGI-in-action-scenes promise that’s become a badge of honor for the new wave of Thai fight films in very well alive in spirit with this film. Although sequences of “Chaiya” boxing are well-choreographed and living up to acrobatic movement by its standard type of fighting, its plot is also satisfactory with subtle and multi-layered storyline, that makes some predictable ending to be easily ignored. Muay Thai is a dirty dirty sport, and one that you will never make it in without the backing of the underworld. Of course, this is false and it only lets your imagination run wild guessing what will happen. However, I do not wish to go into detail, but if you are looking for an overall good movie with more to offer than just some cool moves, definitely check this out.
No-nonsense stance is backed up by Sayompoo Mukdeeprom’s gritty lensing. Just a shame the film seemed to dwell a bit on the foulness of the underground Muay Thai circuit instead of focusing on the positive aspect of the film too. Muay Thai Chaiya is an ancient variation of the martial arts whose philosophy lies with being defensive, and looking for opportunities for deadly counterattacks. It is this distinct philosophy which makes the fights interesting to watch. At last, cinematography, back to old-time Bangkok metropolis, is yet a joy to watch. Thai people should be proud on your traditional Muay Thai master for keeping this martial art to our generation passed the ruin time of gambling mafia and modern time. It really is a wonderous technique to behold. The body mechanics and the movements are so different than any other martial art that they have to be learned from scratch. Fans of Ong Bak will want to check this out as casual cinema goers will get a kick out of this too, no pun intended.