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Ong Bak (THAI 2003)

Director : Prachya Pinkaew
Cast : Tony Jaa, Petchtai Wongkamlao, Pumwaree Yodkamol, Suchao Pongwilai, Wannakit Sirioput and Chumphorn Tepphithak

Booting lives in a small and peaceful village. One day a sacred Buddha statuette called Ong Bak is stolen from the village by a immoral businessman who sells it for exorbitant profits. It soon becomes the task of a young man, Ting to track the thief down to Bangkok voluntarily and reclaim the religious treasure.

by Edward Tang

Tony Jaa. He’s a guy who has already reached acclaim with his first film, just like Bruce Lee did, what 35 years ago? Jaa’s skills outweighs his charisma as he is presented in his first feature film, Ong-Bak. It’s hard to live up to the hype this film has on it’s back, but it delivers every single moment of such. From the moment I saw Tony Jaa fight, I was awe struck on how well done these fights were, especially considering the idea of good action films hadn’t hit me in the land of Thailand. But what story was there is this film?

Take any crappy action film and you probably can find the story they were trying to tell. Another question goes to the casting director, where did you find these assholes? Besides Jaa and Wongkamlao (whom was good), the cast of flunkies truly pissed me off, from the overacting to the guy with the voicebox who annoyed the shit out of me. If you can ignore the acting/story (which I did), you’ll have one good time, the action is literally awesome and gives you more than you deserve. That’s all I ask from any action film, throw loads of action on the screen and it’ll make us forget the other aspects entirely.

Ting (Jaa) is sent to rescue the Ong-Bak’s head (a statue) after it is stolen by a guy named Don and a few of his goons. His mission is to retrieve the head and find one of the villager’s sons named Humlae (Petchtai Wongkamlao). Jaa gets to Bangkok and meets up with George and his girl pal Muay (Pumwaree Yodkamol). George turns out to be Humlae, who has changed his name and become a loser basically. So make a long story short, Humlae steals Ting’s money and takes it to the boxing arena. Ting goes to retrieve it and gets involved with a fight and wins easily. He gets into a fist fight with a gang that was pestering Muay and Humlae so he retaliates for them and f*cks up. Getting chased by idiots and being pestered by Humlae to fight for money, Ting’s returns to the arena looking for Don. He fights again and defeats all the opponents again, to the disinterest of a mob boss who bet 3 million on the fight. Okay, do you really care anymore? The rest of the film consists of Ting pissing off the boss again and the boss fuckin’ Ting over with promises of the Ong-Bak if he throws a fight. Then Ting gets pissed and takes out the entire gang and the mob boss gets taken out by a big Ong-Bak head. There you go.

For the former Mortal Kombat stunt man, this is a great start especially if you want to put yourself into the annals of martial art film history. Can you remember Jackie Chan’s first film? I can’t either, and it probably sucked. Bruce’s first STARRING role was Big Boss and it was the worst of his short 4 film career. So with Ong-Bak, Jaa is off to a good start in conquering this genre with his kickass moves. I know I bitched about the story and acting, but if you think about it there really isn’t a point to. This film is made for action and to introduce us to the NEW king of kickassery. Every single scene that showcases his amazing fight skill or cat-like acrobatics shows that this guy isn’t f*ckin’ around. He CARRIES this film and that’s pretty hard to do with little experience. Okay, he’s not the most charismatic guy to walk the circle but he’s got more skill than the load of ‘em. So if I continue to bitch about the story, just ignore it because I’m marking out like the first time I saw Drunken Master II, heart-pounding and thirsty for some more.

But it’s true (Sigh), the story basically was just another rehash of the same thing. Lone hero leaves village to retrieve stolen good. There you go, that could literally be the synopsis but I’m trying to give a fair share amount of the story to the 5 people who are interested. I’m just floored by how lame the story was, and the beginning scenes were pretty boring because the acting was lame. Yeah, once again the acting seemed forced from many character of the supporting class. From that old lady in the town who literally looked like she was threatened with harm if she didn’t give her lines the good ol’ overacting charm to the girl named Muay (If you aren’t annoyed by her voice, you’re deaf) and finally with the voicebox villain who truly made me laugh every single time he spoke. (When he spoke without the box at the end, was that a mistake or what?) The musical score was damn good, especially from the lack of good tunes from the Thai flicks I’ve seen (All three of them). Maybe the techno/rap genre might catch on one day.

But in life, I’ll admit when people should shut up and I will join them. The story and acting are not the point of this film, when have they ever been in a film of this quality? No, the SUPERB action direction and SUPERB fight scenes are truly ones that will be remembered through action geeks alike from the casual fan. It’s hard to forget a film that delivers on all accounts, especially when billed highly as such. Hell even the stunts were truly awesome, maybe not as cool as hanging from a helicopter but close. Jaa is a quick guy and moves like the wind as shown in one of my favorite scenes. As he’s getting chased down an alley he utilizes his skills and dodges, misses and flips over anything in his way. It impressed me and got my eyes hooked onto the screen looking for some more action. Hell, I was even laughing when Wongkamlao was attempting to do what Jaa was and would fail miserably. Alone, the stunts are worth noting but they really don’t have anything on the fight scenes.

I don’t really know much about Muay Thai aside from watching it in action in the very unappreciated flick “Beautiful Boxer” but I’m starting to become interested. Jaa is the martial arts coordinator on this film, I believe, and he does one hell of a job. The fights are brutal, from elbows to the back of the head and sharp kicks that look fuckin’ harsh (notice in a few scenes some of the pads the fighters were wearing), these fights are true to the word. There’s a great sequence in which showcases Jaa taking on three consecutive opponents, all whom have different styles. The first guy is an idiot brute, whom Jaa takes down with a flurry of punches and kicks. The second guy is skilled in an actual martial art as Jaa struggles a bit but still wins. The final guy is a cheap shot bastard who basically hits Jaa with anything he can get his hands on. This scene alone made the film worth seeing for me. From fight to fight, they all stand out as being good. The final sequence in which Jaa takes on the mob boss and company gives us some awesome deaths and worthy fighting. I might be the only one but seeing Jaa throw that elbow into the back of someones head made me cringe. Even the one car chase is up to snuff and only approves the rest of the film.

I hope to see the same from Jaa’s next films because I’m now counting the days for when Tom Yum Goong is available over here and when his new film The Sword debuts in 2006. You can ignore the story and the acting because it isn’t important. You know what you are going to get if you watch this film, and don’t bitch if it isn’t there in the end because that’s not why this film is in existence. We are only given these type of gifts every once in a while. We had Bruce Lee, then Jackie Chan, the Jet Li, it’s Tony Jaa’s time to take the title of the supreme asskicker. Ong-Bak is a great action film and doesn’t fail to deliver the goods.

Plot : 2/5
Acting : 2/5
Entertainment : 5/5
Overall : 4/5

Notable Scenes
- The shitload of fight scenes
- Ting/Muay/Humlae getting chased by the goons
- The Taxi car chase.

Buy this movie at YesAsia – Ong Bak

Comments (12 comments)

Funny review. Can’t wait for Ong Bak 2.

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