Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

For thirty-five years every tournament has come down to this… the final game on a Thai naval destroyer… for supreme supremacy!   What game is this?  Only STUPIDEST game ever created… Fireball!  Fireball is a five on five basketball tournament where the first team that scores wins.  Simple enough.  But of course to score that basket you will be kicked in the face, punched face, blasted in the nutsack with brutal knee shots, shot across the caged court with sidekicks and roundhouse kicks as if you were blasted out of a cannon, and once the weapons are tossed into the ring there’s a damn good chance that you will ultimately die.  It’s almost guaranteed.  The stupidest game ever.  Which also makes it kind of the most awesomest game ever. 

Tai (Preeti Barameeanat) has just gotten released from the clink, thanks to his brother paying off a few people.  When he goes to thank his twin brother, his brother’s girl Pang (Khanutra Chuchuaysuwan) takes him to a hospital where Tan is in a coma and he looks to be brain dead.  His girl informs us that he was coming home all beat up on a nightly basis, and was telling her it was because of basketball.  She’s tells us she’s not stupid and she knows better.  Well… she is stupid because it was totally basketball that got poor Tan all messed up and Tai has vowed undying revenge. 

Since the mob controls this ‘game’, Tai has to get on team and has gotten the attention of upstart boss Den (Phutharit Prombandal) who believes Tai to be Tan, even though everybody saw Tan senselessly beat into coma on the court, and invites him to join his squad.  This squad is a little on the ragtag side and includes Muk (Kumpanat Oungoungsoognern) who has the misfortune of being dark skinned which is an affliction that apparently gets racial taunts thrown at you no matter where in the hell on the planet Earth you happen to be, and his wife is pregnant.  Then there’s Iq (Kannut Samerjai) who is a mad baller, if not a mad fighter and just wants to make some money to buy the house he promised his mom.  Zing, played by real life fighter 9 Million Sam… that’s the man’s name… works at Thai Best Buy and his job SUCKS!!!  Finally there’s K (Anuwat Saejao) who seeks redemption after reportedly throwing a match in the last tournament.

The matches take place, they are appropriately BRUTAL, and the team moves on a little worse for the wear.  But they are starting gel, even starting to care for each other… which means it’s time for some of them to die in the ring.  Not surprisingly it’s the ones with the most to lose that bite the dust first, plus twin brother Tan is getting worse in the hospital and needs expensive emergency surgery, which Pang is trying to supplement by turning tricks.  Then there’s boss Den who is on the verge of getting deported and Zing is still working at Thai Best Buy.  Life is not good for anybody in this movie. 

But this is a sports movie when we get down to it, and it will come down to the final showdown between our rag tag team of fireballers, and the supreme team of evil fireballers, one of who is responsible for Tan being in a coma.  Again, the battle will be brutal and not everybody is going to make it… like almost no one… but that’s fireball baby.  Can’t wait for season thirty-six. 

So ‘Fireball’ does have some things working in its favor by comparison.  For starters, it craps all over the Chinese basketball fight movie ‘Kung Fu Dunk’ something fierce.  Also it is a better movie, all around, than the last time we made a virtual trip to Thailand in order to see ‘Bangkok Knockout’.  BKO had better fight scenes, because that was what BKO was all about, but this was the better movie.  Then there’s the game of Fireball itself which was something else altogether.  As far as I could tell, there seemed to be very little gain in playing it, outside of dying, since we rarely saw money changing hands, but if some entrepreneur on this side of the pond decided to start a Fireball league, you can bet your last bottom dollar that I’d get the Pay-Per-View. 

But while ‘Fireball’ the game is awesomely stupid, is ‘Fireball’ the movie any good?  Probably not, all things considered.  Director Thanakorn Pongsuwan’s film has this odd mix of brutal violence, interjected with overwrought melodrama that doesn’t always work all that well.  On one hand it was good that we got to spend a little quality time with our other characters to build some kind of development for them, but in honesty this was done just to give their eventual deaths some kind of impact.  In addition, our lead Preeti Barameeanat isn’t much of an actor taking the concept of ‘stoic badass’ to all new depths of stoicness.  I figured maybe when his twin brother eventually came out of that coma that the actor would be a little more emotive, but Tai and Tan are twins right down to their personalities.  There were good performances to offset Barameeanat’s stoic rock, Phutharit Prombandal showing the looks and charm of a younger Chow-Yun Fat and 9 Million Sam… that’s the man’s name… in addition to being a great fighter also has a natural charm about him.  He also expertly captured the bottomless pit of hopelessness of working at Thai Best Buy.

But all of that character development and melodrama stuff is fluff on the periphery.  I enjoyed ‘Fireball’ because I enjoyed the game of Fireball, and that’s what this movie is mostly about.  Somebody start a pickup game so I can watch.  No, I will not be playing. 

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