Netflix’s Hurts Like Hell reveals why the sport of Muay Thai is so rife with corruption. Photo: Netflix
What a view
by Stephen McCarty
What a view
by Stephen McCarty

Netflix documentary Hurts Like Hell examines Muay Thai and the corruption that runs rampant through the sport

  • Hurts Like Hell on Netflix is a four-part dive into Muay Thai, a sport plagued by match fixing and gambling and where ‘deals and profit can be made everywhere’
  • The second season of Physical sees Rose Byrne’s Sheila Rubin struggle with her morals, while D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?! dives into an enduring hijack mystery

Boxing, even where stringently regulated, has never been the most honest of sports – not with so much money procured by sometimes rigged results.

Less than shattering, then, is the realisation that Muay Thai is endemically corrupt, with fighters, referees, judges, promoters, gym owners and so-called boxing gurus all susceptible to the siren call of easy money. The baht is much better than the bite of struggling to survive in a country mid-table in the rich-and-poor league.

Hurts Like Hell (Netflix), an intriguing combination of documentary interviews, drama and lusty bouts staged for the cameras, is a four-part dive into an industry plagued by match fixing and gambling, with odds manipulated by “gurus” in the crowd whose power, wealth and popularity depends on winning big.

The heat and noise generated by demonstrations of Thailand’s “national martial art” at Bangkok’s old Lumpinee Stadium, brought to mind here, could suck anyone into the betting racket.

A still from Hurts Like Hell. Photo: Netflix

But Hurts Like Hell, which asserts that gambling keeps the industry going, suggests that money will also kill a sport in which “referees are individually recruited by promoters”.

As one insider says: “Deals and profit can be made everywhere.”

Thrown fights, drugged fighters, pulled punches, “crooked referees”, murdered betting rivals … how long before Muay Thai is counted out?
A still from Physical. Photo: Apple TV+

Fit to be tried

Sweaty exertion of a different stripe is all the rage in Physical (Apple TV+). Headbands, leg warmers, lurex tights and other early ’80s crimes against fashion are de rigueur in this slyly comic series about the aerobics industry and feeling “the burn” à la Jane Fonda.

A still from Physical. Photo: Apple TV+
San Diego housewife Sheila Rubin (Rose Byrne), who we first met in 1981 in series one, was frustrated, bored, unfulfilled and too often disgusted by her underachieving, unemployed slob of a self-obsessed husband, who went on to have a failed tilt at local politics.

Series two finds Sheila, who reinvented herself as a fitness instructor, selling her own home workout videotape thanks to the latest in whizz-bang technology, the VCR. She is sidling towards lifestyle-expert stardom – if only she could really believe in herself.

Sheila remains subject to her inner monologue, in which she is critical of everyone around her, plus herself. And with good reason: husband Danny (Rory Scovel) may be expanding sideways as Sheila steams down the “Jazzercise highway”, but she is betraying other principles (chiefly, in motel rooms), while he is in at basement level (but on the moral high ground) of the environmental movement. Who will fly higher?

A still from D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?!. Photo: Netflix

Taking off

Flying high in 1971 (and even higher ever since) was D.B. Cooper, the notorious hijacker of Northwest Orient flight 305, now possibly more legend than corporeal.

“Robin Hood” to his admirers and a potentially dangerous criminal to the American authorities, “Cooper” parachuted from a Boeing 727 plane over the US state of Washington with US$200,000 in ransom money and was never found.

A still from D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?!. Photo: Netflix
Conspiracy theories to rival those surrounding the assassination of US president John F. Kennedy, plus efforts to identify “Cooper”, abound. One of the most convincing “mystery solved” claims is the subject of four-part Netflix documentary D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?!

A passenger from the flight, Cooper conventioneers, investigators, suspects’ relatives, ex-FBI agents and Cooper career-ites galore give their views of what has become a cottage industry (and at the same time betray how much it has consumed them).

Titles recalling 2002 movie Catch Me If You Can and 2020 thriller series The Flight Attendant – with more echoes of the latter in music by Blake Neely – push D.B. Cooper: Where Are You! towards the “adventure” listings. Buckle up for a wild ride.