Former Muay Thai champion turned stuntman David Ismalone (ONG-BAK) makes his directorial debut with this semi-biopic of a man who learns a life lesson in the rings of Bangkok.
Ahmad (Ahmad Al-Sulaiti) has arrived in Thailand with his hopes to train in Muay Thai and become a fighter. However, his first night in a new country turns out to be disastrous. Stood up by his friend, he ends up on a drunken night with a tranvestite prostitute, who manages to steal his wallet and bags. With nowhere to go, he ends up drinking more at a small bar only to be nearly accosted by three goons.
Narrowly escaping, Ahmad finds himself on the street. The next day, his friend shows up and takes him to a local Thai boxing camp. There, Ahmad learns that training in a new style is not as easy as he hoped it would be. Upset, he finds himself going to an illegal fight with a underground promoter (Nikki Pimp). There, he finds himself taking on a local Muay Thai champion who fights to make a little extra money.
Ruthlessly beaten, Ahmad begins to finally take his training seriously. Under the guidance of the camp owner’s daughter Katoon (Ying-Julaluck Ismalone) and the camp’s top trainer (Somluck Khamsing), Ahmad begins to finally fight as a professional and it is in and out of the ring, he learns one of the most important lessons in life.
Originally titled AUKMEN, French-born Muay Thai champion David Ismalone has made a name for himself as a stuntman in both Thailand and his native France. Many martial arts fans will best know him as the bar fighter Mad-Dog in ONG-BAK (2003). Here, he makes his debut as screenwriter and director. How does he ultimately fare? Not too bad yet it does has some flaws in the execution.
The film marks the starring debut of Qatar-born actor and martial artist Ahmad Al-Sulaiti. For his film debut, Al-Sulaiti, whose story this is based on, doesn’t do a bad job. However, should he continue to make more films, he does need to brush up on his acting skills. He plays the typical fish-out-of-water, a man who quit his job and lost the respect of his father to live his dream to become a Muay Thai fighter. One can think of the film as a C-grade martial arts version of ROCKY (1976) in a way.
In his quest to learn about the waays of Muay Thai, he seeks guidance from two people. As the top trainer, many martial arts fans will know Somluck Khamsing for his role in BORN TO FIGHT (2004) and also being a gold medalist boxer. Somluck is also the fighter who was supposed to have fought Jean-Claude Van Damme in a Muay Thai match, but no word on that yet. Somluck uses the limited English he has to good effect. Do not expect a love interest in Ying-Julaluck Ismalone’s Katoon. She is there mainly for being a translator for her father and becoming another mentor to Ahmad. While in this type of film, there is usually some sort of love interest, screenwriters Islamone, Julaluck, and Al-Sulaiti were smart in doing away with that cliche.
The fight scenes themselves, which don’t make much of an impact until nearly halfway through, are not too bad. Using his experience as a stuntman, Islamone learned the craft of fight choreography and camerawork. Despite a few mishaps in close ups and quick edits, there are some nice overhead and long shots that make the ring fights look quite well. The finale, a professional re-match between Ahmad and the fighter who beat him in the illegal fight, is the best fight of the film and ends with just a bit of a twist.
Don’t expect anything too exciting with DOWN FOR THE COUNT. While it may not be on the level of WARRIOR or ROCKY, David Ismalone made good enough use of the budget he had to make a decent drama about one man’s personal quest to live his dream. Worth at least a rental.