Updated: Dec 5, 2019
Directed by: #CharlesGarrett
Written by: Charles Garrett
Baan Muay Thai Movie Review
An authentic yet flawed indie drama from filmmaker Charles Garrett, Baan Muay Thai is your classic sporting underdog story with a Thai flavour.
Garret not only writes and directs here but stars as Max, the central character, who quits his city trader job in London to head back to Thailand to pursue his dream of being a Muay Thai fighter. Plenty of kicks and jabs come his way and that's not just his fighting opponents. Constructing a ring, dealing with the locals, and not embarrassing the honour of the gym are just some of the obstacles in his way, as well as personal demons which may be his greatest challenge yet.
Filmed with a documentary style but not a documentary, Baan Muay Thai has a confusing fabric that some audiences may find difficult to connect with. The cameras seem to be attempting to keep up with Max’s relentless ambition, with shaky and wobbly footage aplenty. This documentary style also applies to the narrative, in that we are given Max in the moment and follow him on this journey without much of a preamble. His journey East and decision to start a boxing career pretty much takes up all of the space, aside from a subplot about his womanising which feels underdeveloped.
There were moments when Baan Muay Thai felt like a spiritual odyssey, especially with Max’s physical body being put through so many gruelling challenges. His expedition is punctuated with a few side characters, such as his trainer, the gym owner, and his daughter Apple, but this is mostly a solo exploration into his limits and the depths of his character. The build up to the big fight is obviously full of tension and gripping anticipation but it is the emotional connection to Max that the viewer craves and, sadly, we go wanting. Garrett is a decent lead, though, and his sporting chemistry with the various fighters is the tape around the fists of this piece.
If you are going to enter into the arena of boxing/fighting movies then you had better be ready for a punch up, because the genre is littered with #filmmakers entering some exceptional cinematic gems. From the legendary Rocky movies and #MartinScorsese’s Raging Bull, to more modern hits like Creed and Warrior, audiences are wholly familiar and invested into the structure of the boxing flick. Garrett’s film certainly follows many of the footsteps left for it, such as the outsider central character, the seemingly endless flow of obstacles, all making the man stronger for the inevitable showdown. Where Baan Muay Thai doesn’t land the same kind of knuckle sandwich as the aforementioned heavyweights, is in the compounding investment made between the audience and the fighter. Max isn’t a particularly likeable guy and only in a few moments are we given any kind of reason to root for him.
Cinematically original for a #boxing flick and certainly worth a watch if you are a connoisseur of the genre, but it’s not going toe to toe with anything substantial that has come before.