Friday Fisticuffs: Fireball (2009)

I was super skeptical about Fireball, but added it to the top of my Netflix DVD queue for a few reasons: I needed an action movie for today’s post and it’s Thai, so it’s got to be at least sort of good, right? Well, turns out it’s way more than sort of good. I give this flick a lot of credit for several reasons. First off, you don’t have to sit through a bunch of nonsense to show that the hero is trying to avenge his brother. In fact, you’re told that in the first minute or so. Second, they take what sounds like a silly concept (full contact basketball) and turns it into something that not only feels legit, but also has a sense of history to it, even if that history is explained awkwardly by a pair of old white guys talking about an old ball.

So here’s the deal. the main character gets picked to join a Fireball team, an underground sport that pits two teams against each other in what looks like a regular basketball game but involves lots of punching and kicking. I’m sure I missed a lot of the subtletly and rules of the game and plot, but they do note that there can be no fighting between teams outside of the sport, that leads to disqualification. As it happens–of course–the main character’s rival is on the best team in the league, who they won’t meet on the court until the final game which is INSANE.

Luckily, most of the film is spent on the action/sports scenes because, frankly, I don’t care about the main dude or his beat up brother. I’ve seen the framework of this movie a million times before, so it’s good to see them address the plot, but not get too absorbed by it. The real fun of the movie is watching this strange sport unfold. I was thinking while watching and most fictional sports in movies are either set in the future or involve magic, so I give them a lot of credit for creating a variation on a sport I don’t care about and making me want to watch it (though how much cooler would the movie have been if it was Slamball plus martial arts?). Plus, the fights are sick. You get the usual high quality that comes from Thai martial arts movies, but then also a different format that the fights are framed in. This isn’t one dude fighting a million other dudes who aren’t as good as him, making his way to the big boss, this is several very well trained fighters fighting several other well trained fighters who all happen to also be running and kicking. It’s rad. This is my most highly recommended movie of anything I’ve watched so far for Friday Fisticuffs. Check it out!

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