Anyone who’s seen the Friends episode where Joey invents a game entitled ‘Fireball’ will remember that the game itself was highly dangerous, utterly ridiculous and not really worthy of an entire film premise. The Joey version isn’t what’s on offer here, but frankly, it might as well be.
Fireball centres on a (hopefully) fictional version of basketball in which your team only needs to score a single basket to win the game. Easy peasy, right? The only downside is that your opponents are allowed to kill you in order to stop that from happening. Kill you with pipes, with knives, with rocks, with essentially anything they can get their terrifying hands on. In the underground gang culture of Thailand, the game pays big when you’re the last man standing, and for young protagonist Tai (Preeti Barameenat) the potential cash-prize is worth the risk. Enter a gang-boss looking for a new team, a group of rag-tag fighters, boxers and sportsman and a story that doesn’t matter nearly as much as the slow motion fight sequences.
The only rule of Fireball? There are no rules in Fireball…
Director Thanakorn Pongsuwan obviously knows what he’s doing in terms of constructing action shots, and Fireball really comes into its own during the games themselves; a mixture of traditional Muay Thai fighting, slow motion sports action and all-out brawling. It’s fast, furious, kind of ridiculous but anyone who loved WWF as a kid will surely be caught up in the madness of it all. The problem in terms of the action is that you can’t help but notice the greasy CGI monster lurking in the shadows of the most impressive sequences, which rather takes the sting out of the brawling. The games, whilst fast-paced and exciting to watch, don’t hold up in comparison to films such as Prachya Pinkaew’s epic Ong-Bak, where the real-life fights and breathtaking sequences aren’t just eat-your-hand nail biting, but are visually stunning too.
Yeah, get ’em! Wait, who is he again?
The other problem with this film is the plot, or rather the lack thereof. The back story of lead character Tai – who has come to play Fireball in order to avenge his coma-bound twin brother- plays out uncannily like a Street Fighter character history, and there is a distinct lack of meaty supporting roles or interesting character developments. The story is hurried, fairly unbelievably acted, and the scenes in between fights play out like just that – rushed interruptions from the real meat of the film itself. Basically as viewers, much like the players themselves, we’re in this for the fights and the fights alone.
Overall, Fireball is a film that will more than satisfy those out for a new spin on the traditional gang-action brawl. It’s frantic, blood-thirsty and action-packed whist managing to pack in some original fight sequences that are great to look at. However, if you’re looking for action with brains behind the fists, this isn’t the game for you.