Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior

Being a big kung-fu film buff I decided that once I'd seen the impressive trailer for Ong-Bak online I was definitely going to check it out if it came to a theater within reasonable driving distance to my home.

It did!

While the film doesn't break any new ground for the genre (it borrows elements heavily from Enter the Dragon, The Chinese Connection, Bloodsport and any Jackie Chan movie from the 70s and 80s) it certainly shows off the extraordinary talents of it's main star, Tony Jaa, who I predict will become the newest martial arts film star in Asia and the US. That alone was worth the price of admission.
The setup is this: A small village in Thailand is devastated when the statue of Ong-Bak, their religious icon, is vandalized and its head goes missing. A young martial artist from the village volunteers to search for the statue's head in the big city, and once he gets there he meets a compulsive pit fight gambler and his younger sister. He is convinced to fight in the ring and becomes the star of the circuit. Many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many fights ensue.

The trailers hyped up the fact that Tony Jaa used no wires, CGI or stunt doubles for the extremely harsh fights and stunts featured in the film. I can't believe that this guy would put himself through that much pain for a movie, but it's all there on screen and it's friggin’ amazing! He jumps through a foot wide ring of barbed wire by folding himself in half. He slides under a moving truck by doing the splits and sliding along the gravel on his crotch. He pushes an opponent through a second story glass window and in mid-air kicks him in the chest, pushing straight to the ground. He jumps off a scaffolding and lands on an opponent knees first, pushing him through the floor with the power of the impact. He performs some of the most acrobatic fights I've ever seen on film. It's a ton of fun.
Sure the acting is mediocre at best, the main female actress has THE MOST ANNOYING VOICE IN THE HISTORY OF ASIAN CINEMA, the cinematography is sometimes too dark to get a good look at the action and the movie takes it's time getting to the action (about 45 minutes into the film we see our first fight), and it also has some very cheesy plot twists, but it's a seriously entertaining film that no fan of the genre should miss out on.

Video is not the way to see this film for the first time. It must be witnessed in a theater to be truly experienced! You'll thank yourself if you do!

4 out of 5

*written 2/12/05

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