Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Directed by Prachya Pinkaew.
2003. Rated R, 105 minutes.
Tony Jaa
Petchtai Wongkamlao
Pumwaree Yodkamol
Suchao Pongwilai
Chumphorn Thepphithak
Cheathavuth Watcharakhun
Wannakit Sirioput

A country boy goes to the big city and kicks a whole lotta ass. By the way, I mean that literally. He doesn’t often kick, like with his foot or punch, like with his hand. He’s hitting guys with elbows, knees, even his entire torso. By guys, I mean lots of guys. Make that lots and lots of guys. There’s so many guys that he has to escape from time to time to catch his breath. By escape, I mean flipping over guys, walking on their heads, climbing a will and hopping a fence without using his hands, etc. Then he gets back to kickin’ ass. When it’s all over I’ve lost track of just how many asses he’s kicked. Yes, I mean that literally.

Um, plot? There is one, I guess. Our hero’s name is Ting (Jaa). He’s from a small village where they worship a Buddha-like figure called Ong-Bak. Heeeyyyyy, I wonder if that’s where they got the idea for the title. Duh. Anyhoo, Ong-Bak is symbolized by a statue they keep in their sanctuary. One of the young guys who left the village, moved to the big city and became a hoodlum steals the statue’s head in hopes of selling it for big bucks. Besides this, two things let us know there’s going to be a lof of fightin’. First, Ting volunteers to bring back Ong-Bak, by himself of course. More importantly, Ting’s master tells him that even though he taught him everything there is to know about Muay Thai, he doesn’t want him to ever use it. Hot diggity dang! As soon as I heard that I knew it was on. I hit pause, went and popped some popcorn, poured myself a tall glass of the beverage of my choice and spilled it all over the place as I ran back to the couch, picked up the remote and pressed play.

I’ve already spent too much time on the plot. Truthfully, the movie does this also. We mosey along at a pace that’s a little too slow as we’re introduced to new characters and the dynamics between them are set up. None of them warrants any mention as particularly interesting. What is interesting is when we get beyond all that and our hero gets down to business. Once he gets going, Ong-Bak becomes a special movie. Tony Jaa makes it so. The things he does are simply amazing. And yes, these are all organic stunts performed by Mr. Jaa himself. By organic I mean it really is all him, no cgi and no wires. It’s a stunning display of athleticism reminiscent of a young Jackie Chan, but without the comedic overtones.

For fans of martial arts flicks, this is a must-see. It’s more than worth the time it takes to wade through the less than thrilling first act to get to the non-stop fighting portion of the movie. Don’t come into this with any notions of a well-crafted scripted, character development, good acting or any other high saditty ideas. This is all about high-flyin’, bone-crunchin’ action. It’s all about amazing feats of human physicality. It’s all about a country boy going to the big city and kickin’ a whole lotta ass. Literally.

MY SCORE: 6/10


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