On the surface, Muay Thai appears to be a fair yet jarring and brutal sport. Two fighters get in the ring and duke it out on the floorboard, with one emerging victorious. However, beneath the surface of this popular sport and fighting discipline lies a dark world of illegal gambling, match fixing, crookedness, and corruption.
Hurts Like Hell is a mini docu-series produced by Netflix and inspired by real-life events. The drama-style season dives headfirst into the seedy underworld of illegal gambling and corruption that continues to taint the once revered sport and sacred tradition of Muay Thai.
Inspired From Real Life Events
Netflix’s Hurts Like Hell is filled with gritty action sequences, gory fights, and dark undertones. It is no surprise that the mini-series is inspired by true stories since 98% of Muay Thai boxing spectators are gamblers, fixers, and gang members looking to win big money from these matches.
From the dark underbelly of Muay Thai boxing to the rigors of this sport, Hurts Like Hell depicts a brutally honest version of the Muay Thai scene, covering the hardships faced by fighters and exploring the reasons why they cannot call it quits for good.
In hopes of providing an authentic and eye-opening experience, the 4 episodes of the show are enhanced by talking head interviews and dramatic re-enactments of incidents and scandals. You will watch gamblers, boxers, and referees directly address the audience throughout the series.
While some sequences might be exaggerated, there is no doubt that the gambling underworld is responsible for the demise of the sport yet somehow also keeps it alive. In short, Hurts Like Hell is deeply rooted in reality and offers a look into the Muay Thai “way of life” dogma that prevents players from hanging their boxing gloves for good.
At its core, Hurts Like Hell is an anthology series that follows different story arcs and characters in every episode, ranging from a crooked referee to a struggling Muay Thai boxer trying to support his mother.
However, the show aims to tackle the dark side of Muay Thai boxing by including talking head interviews and re-enactments of real-life stories, making it a blend of drama and documentary. Since it’s an amalgamation of these different formats and perspectives, it’s very easy for viewers to slip in and out of the show. However, it also means the show is neither extremely comprehensive to be considered an authentic documentary nor gripping enough to be a thriller/drama. Instead, it walks a tightrope smack in the middle, and we found it thoroughly enjoyable.
The show has 4 episodes, each looking at the world of Muay Thai boxing from the eyes of a different individual. Every episode starts with an expository-style explanation of Muay Thai boxing and the illegal gambling and match-fixing within, followed by a drama-style re-enactment and finally a talking head interview.
Hurts Like Hell follows a guy named Phat in the first episode, which paints a picture of the brutal gambling world of Muay Thai boxing. The episode revolves around a quirky hotshot gambler with a loose tongue who challenges a notorious high roller with a wager.
The second episode follows a crooked referee who accepts a bribe ahead of a high-grossing bout but finds himself facing a dilemma. This particular episode offers a sneak peek into how betting on Muay Thai matches is affected by match-fixing scandals and illicit gambling activities.
The last two episodes are very well-written, sequenced, and edited. The visuals are particularly stunning and coupled with a solid storyline. Episode 3 follows the story of an impoverished kid trying to rise in the world. Skilled in Muay Thai boxing, the young boy trains hard and fights to lift his mother out of poverty.
Finally, the concluding episode follows a father/son duo and finishes with a tragic ending. Episode 4 offers a look into the poverty-stricken world of Muay Thai boxing, where every child dreams of making it big and getting inducted into the national team, except our protagonist. Instead, Young Nong wants his own Muay Thai boxing camp one day. Encouraged by his father and trainer, we follow Nong as he enters the ring for the fight of his life.
Hurts Like Hell paints a vivid and graphic picture of the diverse lives that shape the complex, intriguing, and sometimes dark world of Muay Thai boxing. If you’re a fan of fighting sports and anthology TV series, this show will help you learn more about Muay Thai directly from insiders, such as gamblers, boxers, critics, promoters, and ring doctors. We hope you like watching the multi-perspective stories that define Thailand’s national sport!