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September 19, 2013

Fighting Fish

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Julaluck Ismalone - 2012
PMP Entertainment Region 0 DVD

A subject that might be worth exploration is of female filmmakers, and masculine environments. Among the films that come to mind would be Ida Lupino and The Hitch-Hiker, Kathryn Bigelow with Point Break and The Hurt Locker, and Lexi Alexander and The Green Street Hooligans. There are probably other films that I have overlooked or are unknown to me at this time. Thai filmmaker Julaluck Ismalone might be worthy of at least a footnote in this regard.

The former model turned actress, also known as Ying, wrote and directed here. Ying also appeared in Bangkok Revenge, a film I wrote about a while back. The story is by her husband, David Ismalone, a filmmaker whose main credits are for stunt work and action choreography, including Ong-Bak and Beautiful Boxer. This film was made primarily for the niche market of films centered on martial arts, more specifically of the kind of fights where there are no rules.

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One thing that Ying gets absolutely right is the occasional craziness of riding around in a tuk-tuk. For those unfamiliar, a tuk-tuk is described as a motorized rickshaw. Depending on the driver, the ride can be quite hair-raising. Plus there is the challenge that the driver will understand your mangling of Thai in telling him where you want to go, and that he actually knows how to get there. And there was the one time a driver picked me up, only to answer his cell phone, and drop me off a short distance because something came up that was more important than getting me to my destination. Fighting Fish begins with two tuk-tuk rides. One with a driver who whizzes around Bangkok, and at one point falls asleep at a stop sign, before dropping the visiting farang (foreigner), Mike, to the Muay Thai boxing stadium. After watching the fights, Mike is given a ride by another tuk-tuk driver who takes him to a dark alley where he gets beat up by a bunch of guys, but not before Mike shows that he can take them on.

Mike's luck seems to take a turn for the worse when his money is taken by a street hustler, whose shell game is disrupted by the police. Mike chases down the guy through the streets, a huge warehouse, and Buddhist temple grounds, where a fight turns into friendship. The guy, Yo, lives with his wheelchair bound wife, Katoon, and they invite Mike to their home. Unknown to Katoon, part of how Yo earns money is through an underground fight club. There are fighters, and then there are the Fighting Fish, a select group of fighters who face the reigning champion, a fierce little guy named Maddog. Those who lose against Maddog also lose their life. Mike, a former boxer from an unnamed country, thinks he has the stuff to take on Maddog, and make the kind of money needed for Katoon's surgery.

The story is hardly original. The action scenes, especially in the early part of the film, show talent in action choreography. There is also one funny bit in a pawn shop run by identical twin brothers. What I find most interesting about Fighting Fish is that it serves as an example of why it is not a good idea to stereotype female filmmakers. Maybe that's enough of a reason to give a film like this, some consideration.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 19, 2013 08:04 AM