Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior

"OK"

Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior Review


Thai martial arts star Tony Jaa is being touted as the heir-apparent to Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li -- and in "Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior," he certainly makes a mark for himself in the increasingly popular genre with refined, enthrallingly focused, breathtakingly acrobatic grace.

The first time he's shown on screen -- simply practicing his Muay Thai kung-fu style in precision exercises of extraordinary power and sharp, sudden movements -- its impossible to take your eyes off him.

When he actually begins fighting -- and climbing walls and sliding under cars and literally jumping through barbwire hoops -- "Ong-Bak" seems well on its way to becoming a truly great launching pad for an Asian fighter-actor who could take the world by storm.

By the third or fourth such episode of stunts and fierce chop-socky showdowns, however, a lack of creativity begins to drag the picture down.

The plot is simple and predictable, but that's to be expected -- nobody sees such movies for their insight, intelligence, character development or witty repartee. Jaa plays a young rural villager who ventures to the big city to retrieve a sacred Buddha head stolen from his community temple. He violently kicks the butts of a myriad of gangsters to get his hands on the relic, and that's pretty much all there is to it.

But as imaginative, awe-inspiring, and often brutal as Jaa's punches, kicks, swirls and stunts may be, it seems director Prachya Pinkaew can't get enough of certain repetitive moves (elbow to the head, elbow to the head, elbow to the head...). Neither does he trust the audience to appreciate the movie's feats of derring-do without beating us over the head with them. For each Jackie-Chan type exploit Jaa performs, the director seems bent on unspooling every inch of footage shot from every angle and at every speed -- even though showing off clearly isn't Jaa's style.

What's worse, Pinkaew's obsession with slow-motion often unwittingly betrays the pulled punches and near-miss kicks of the fight choreography, which is itself a problem at times since some moves have clearly been chosen for the way they look on screen, even though they are, in fact, laughably impractical. (So is the ridiculous rap song tacked on over the closing credits for the U.S. release.)

"Ong-Bak" has a raw, dirty, gritty visual style that mixes well with no-holds-barred beat-downs and do-it-yourself stunts. For martial arts aficionados, this may be a pivotal moment in the genre's evolution, and as such, a film not to be missed. But Jaa isn't what you'd call an actor, and "Ong-Bak" would just be an assembly-line B-movie import without his gift for this unique, sinuous new brand of chop-socky.



Facts and Figures

Box Office Worldwide: $4.6M

Production compaines: Baa-Ram-Ewe, Sahamongkolfilm Co.

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Ting, Petchtai Wongkamlao as Humlae / Dirty Balls / George, as Muay Lek, Suchao Pongwilai as Komtuan, Chumphorn Thepphithak as Uncle Mao, Cheathavuth Watcharakhun as Peng, Wannakit Sirioput as Don, Rungrawee Barijindakul as Ngek, Chatthapong Pantanaunkul as Saming, Nudhapol Asavabhakhin as Toshiro, Pornpimol Chookanthong as Mae Waan, Udom Chouncheun as Ta Meun, Boonsri Yindee as Yai Hom

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.