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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 38.64%
Average: 4.55%
Pretty Bad: 3.41%
Total Crap: 3.41%

7 reviews, 46 user ratings

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Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior
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by Jason Whyte

"Tony Jaa Kicks Ass. Film at 11."
5 stars

Tony Jaa. What can I say about this guy that hasn’t been echoed by many Asian cinema aficionados since “Ong-bak” has been released? Jaa, an expert on the Thai martial art known as Muay Thai boxing, is a force of nature, and the sole existence of this motion picture is to let him go and perform powerhouse fight and stunt sequences. The result is a martial arts classic, and quite possibly the most relentless motion picture that will be released in 2005. This is all in thanks to the kinetic skills of its lead performer, and also director Prachya Pinkaew, who both use old techniques instead of relying on the digital new-age.

Lately, so many movies promise something with one hand and give it to you with the other. Horror films are promising thrills and scares, and yet are being edited down to PG-13 ratings with neither thrills nor scares to be found. Comedies are being released that promise non-stop laughter but instead bang you over the head with one unfunny sequence after another. And even in the martial arts genre, computers are now starting to do the fighting instead of the human actor, and we’re noticing. “Ong-bak” refuses to do that. It is precise in its intentions: it has a story that is paper-thin and knows it; but it doesn’t shy away nor does it siphon its action/violence to a PG-13 rating. And how can it? The whole film is about a lead character that is so well-trained and carefully nuanced and who is capable of sudden explosion.

The story: a small village in Thailand has had Ong-bak, the head of its ancient statue stolen by a corrupt antiques dealer, and Ting (Jaa), an expert in Muay Thai boxing, is sent to Bangkok to retrieve it. The film sets up its style by an amazing tree sequence that is somewhat like the “Capture the Flag” game but with the flag at the top of a big monkey tree. As the villagers climb the tree, they are knocked down by their competitors as they free-fall to the ground. (And they’re really falling, by the way.)

Ting’s journey leads him to the city to find the head of Ong-bak. Ting first meets an old friend of his from the village who eventually brings him into some pretty rough territory, right into the underworld of Bangkok. While Ting is simply looking for the head, he has to work his way to it, even including some fighting, despite his training telling him not to use Muay Thai unless necessary. But it must be done to complete his mission, and he only uses it in defence to the wild and crazy fighters that come his way. The corrupt dealer is a piece of work; a paraplegic who has throat cancer and speaks through a voice box, he comes across Ting at his boxing club, where Ting is dropping his competitors like flies. He’s too fast for the rest of them.

Jaa’s speed is remarkable. Sure, he may not be the greatest actor alive, but neither was Bruce Lee; they’re hired for something else. Here is someone who has been brutally trained on the art of speed, and the way that he handles each situation with complete defence is remarkable to watch. Some fight sequences completely defy description; one of which involving Ting and a fighter who tears the fight club apart is one of the best fight sequences I’ve seen since Jackie Chan took on his own bodyguard, Ken Lo, in “Drunken Master II.” (Which is now on DVD as “The Legend of Drunken Master” and is required viewing for all fans of Kung-fu.) The theatrical posters and advertising remark on how no stunt doubles or visual effects were used in the film and all of the work was Jaa himself. I believe it.

The film’s momentum never lets up. Of course, a stolen head must be captured, but we’re fascinated by the lengths that Ting will go to. An early chase scene plays like a stunt show, with Jaa jumping up walls, leaping over cars like they’re as high as stools and leaping directly through barbed-wire. (Another nice touch: many of the “money shots” are repeated from another angle). And about halfway through the film, an unexplainable chase on three-wheeled taxis takes us through the city streets, leading all the way to the obligatory unfinished overpasses. Director Prachya Pinkaew earns a few points for not having the taxis explode as they lurch off the edges. I know they normally wouldn’t, but a lesser filmmaker would have no problem hitting the detonation.

We go to the movies for many reasons. In this case, we go to escape, to experience a performer who can do something that we can’t. I know for a fact I can’t run up walls, beat up a strong guy using my speed or run over a fleet of fighters that I want to get away from. Tony Jaa is as fiercely talented as Buster Keaton, Jackie Chan and Jet Li, and I have no problem spending two hours in his shoes.

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originally posted: 02/27/05 21:15:05
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Boston Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Boston Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Boston Fantastic Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Boston Fantastic Film Festival series, click here.
Trilogy Starters: For more in the Trilogy Starters series, click here.

User Comments

11/25/09 Alex Thorne Truly Brutal, and all the better for it. inspired coreography 5 stars
11/12/09 Albert Valentin Jaa definitely showcases his raw sheer talent with no CGI or wirework. Great star debut. 5 stars
3/16/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess One of the best martial arts movies ever! 5 stars
9/20/07 Johnnyfaye if you didn't like this movie, then you shouldn't have went to see it. Awesome Genre film 5 stars
8/10/07 Bruce Tri I see Tom Yum Goong is amazing and outstanding, He must have a chance like Bruce Lee place 5 stars
7/19/07 marita he's just beautiful, I love him 5 stars
3/02/07 Dark Enchatress Tony Jaa is killer! Great movie!!! 5 stars
12/20/06 Dark Enchantress Great Movie! Great moves! Great everything! 5 stars
11/09/06 Jason Amazing fight scenes!!!!! There was a plot! 5 stars
10/26/06 AJ Muller some of the finest fight scenes ever filmed; Tony Jaa is phenomenal 5 stars
8/23/06 Quigley The fights alone are worth your time. Skip it if you want a good plot. Tony Jaa is awesome 5 stars
6/14/06 drydock54321 nice fight scenes but kind of dull 2 stars
2/21/06 Vega WOW 5 stars
10/10/05 JeromeBosch He should have killed the loud whiney bitch. 5 stars
10/09/05 K. Sear Thin on plot but Tony Jaa has some absolutely amazing moves!!! 4 stars
9/28/05 Phil Good kick-boxer, looses head and has to run and jump over lots of things. Ouch - arm!! 3 stars
9/13/05 bbbr totally suck 1 stars
9/12/05 Bloodclot Great stunts...too bad the rest of the movie was absolute poop. 1 stars
9/10/05 Zaharin Bin Abdul Razak Superb action movie despite negligible story 5 stars
9/04/05 Zaharin Bin Abdul Razak Bad screenplay and bad acting. Fight scenes were shit too. 2 stars
9/04/05 Christine Hosie not that good,overhyped,good fighting scenes but a bit boring storywise 3 stars
8/28/05 Tom Burns Tony Jaa is just amazing. Jawdropping action. 5 stars
8/27/05 Rever_Bear-Trap Tony Jaa is inevitabily going to be the next Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan & Jet Li rolled into 1! 5 stars
5/10/05 George Adams Get rid of the boring bits 4 stars
3/15/05 Las Great 5 stars
3/09/05 Los Daddy Knees and Elbows Everywhere...Loved It 5 stars
3/08/05 malcolm disappointing 2 stars
3/03/05 HORAN THE MAN!!!!! TONI JAA LICKS ASS!!! 1 stars
2/28/05 Marc Basque Holy fucking badass man. 4 stars
2/21/05 Ja Rule Jaa Rules 5 stars
2/20/05 ajay funny and entertaining, but it's pretty cookie-cutter, nothing to "ground breaking" 3 stars
2/18/05 Fahad Pinto great skills 5 stars
2/16/05 Maalstrom Great Action and skeleton plot makes for a very fun movie. 4 stars
2/16/05 jeff who needs plot in a martial arts movie??? 5 stars
2/15/05 somm good actors 5 stars
2/14/05 Gray incredible action! 5 stars
2/12/05 Kenneth Flickstein Amazing martial arts ability... only one finishing move used over and over. No real plot. 3 stars
12/22/04 Jackson A real action movie that entertains 5 stars
12/11/04 moviegoer wipes the floor with HK and Hollywood action movies 5 stars
12/04/04 Maroth Phan This movie is totally awesome 5 stars
11/27/04 jeba rocks! my fav scene is where tin jumps and attacks don with his knees to break the helmet! 5 stars
11/22/04 CJ Quach I've seen many martial arts movies, and I must comment that this is one of the best/ 5 stars
11/12/04 Karess !100% action, amazing!!!!! 5 stars
11/07/04 Gaijin84 By far the best martial arts movie in 10 years. 5 stars
11/06/04 George The most amazing pure action martial arts movie ever - no wires no trick photography. 5 stars
9/18/04 JC awesome fighting and stunts 5 stars
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  DVD: 30-Aug-2005



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