98% of spectators who attend Thai boxing matches are gamblers. This is a big business sport, but there’s also a dangerous, seedy underbelly to all this. From match fixing to crooked refereeing, Hurts Like Hell dives into corruption within the industry and does so with a mix of drama and documentary styles.
Split across four episodes, Hurts Like Hell is an intriguing series that blends talking head interviews with long, dramatic re-enactments into a not-quite-documentary and not-quite-drama format. In many ways, this feels like it’s going to be divisively received by viewers. There is certainly enjoyment to be had here though, and the anthological format makes this very easy to slip in and out of.
However, that aforementioned format makes this something of a double-edged sword. While it’s certainly entertaining, it’s also somewhat tepid in its execution at times. This is nowhere near informative enough to be an eye-opening documentary nor is it gripping enough to be an action/thriller drama. Instead, this walks a tightrope somewhere in the middle, with a mixed bag of episodes ranging from mediocre to enjoyable.
In a way, this feels like a Thai Boxing version of The Last Czars, which had a very similar structure in the way it was set up. If you’ve watched that and enjoyed it, chances are you’ll like this too.
The episodes begin with a look at match fixing and gambling in general, seen through the eyes of a guy called Phat. This serves as the character for whom we follow in episode 1. From here, the attention shifts to a crooked referee in episode 2, a poverty-stricken child in episode 3 and then finally to a father/son duo in the final chapter.
Each of these are structured in much the same way, with an opening bite of expository text mentioning different parts of Muay Thai fighting and the corruption within. We then get about an 80/20 split between re-enactment drama and talking head interviews. Within these episodes, the filming and general editing is pretty good, and there’s undeniably some good spots in this, especially during the in-ring action.
Episode 3 is probably the best of the 4 episodes available, with a really solid storyline revolving around a poverty stricken kid eking out a living and training hard. Given how different each of these episodes are though, your favourite may differ.
Hurts Like Hell may not be for everyone but if you’re sold after the first episode and enjoy the format, you’re likely to get a lot out of this. It’s not perfect, and at times the re-enactments don’t quite work as well as they should, but there’s just enough here to recommend all the same.
Verdict - 7/10