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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

Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior
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by EricDSnider

"Negligible movie, but ah, those action scenes!"
4 stars

The martial arts film "Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior" has become mildly famous on the festival circuit because of what it doesn't have: wires, stuntmen, or computers. There are tricks of camera placement and creative editing, of course, but for the most part, what you see is what you get, and it's often extraordinary.

It's a good thing, too, because the story is dumb and the paper-thin characters are motivated only by the needs of the plot. But man, those action scenes! Just watching the film's hero, played by lithe super-human Tony Jaa, run down a city street is thrilling, as he is able to leap over tables, carts and other tall objects as though they were curbs. His fighting skills are even more impressive -- he and the character are trained in Muay Thai -- and the film works as a sort of Muay Thai porno, where there's a basic story and a little dialogue between scenes of everybody gettin' busy.

Jaa plays Ting, the favorite son of a humble village called Nong Pradu. The town deity is Ong-Bak, and a festival to honor him is coming soon -- but alas, a greedy fiend named Don (Wannakit Sirioput), angry that he could not strike up all the deals he wanted while visiting Nong Pradu, has sawed off the head of the Ong-Bak Buddha statue and taken it with him back to Bangkok. Without a head for the statue, surely the village is doomed! (I do not pretend to understand this, nor do I know if it accurately reflects how Buddhism is practiced in modern-day rural Thailand. Either way, the townspeople are distraught.)

So Ting takes a hero's journey to Bangkok to retrieve the head by all means necessary, even if he has to kick a lot of butt in the process. And in the process kick a lot of butt he does! He first finds Hum Lae (Petchtai Wongkamlao), a Nong Pradu boy who has forsaken the traditional ways of the village and now works the streets of Bangkok as a grifter, thief and con man. Hum Lae has a little sister figure in the tomboyish Muay Lek (Pumwaree Yodkamol), his accomplice and friend, and they sort of agree to help Ting find Don, but mostly they are awed by his fighting skills and thus find every opportunity to exploit them, including pitting him against competitors in an underground fight club.

And there you go. There are more details than that, but there's the gist: fighting, running, snooping, statue-head-retrieving, more fighting, and so forth. Director Prachya Pinkaew injects some humor and imagination into the action sequences (if not very much anywhere else), recalling in Tony Jaa a less-charismatic Jackie Chan or a younger Jet Li. Pinkaew does have the irritating habit, however, of showing particularly cool stunts from several different angles, apparently so pleased with himself and his actors for having accomplished it that he can't resist showing it to us three times.

Rough edges aside, the movie is giddy good fun to watch, and probably would be just as much so without subtitles. A fleet of three-wheeled taxis being destroyed during a chase through Bangkok is entertaining in any language, after all.

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originally posted: 03/07/05 18:14:54
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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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