CORPORATE LINE: One dark night, a former native of a rural Thai village, has his men steal the head of the town’s ONG BAK (Buddha statue) to win favor with ruthless crime boss Khom Tuan. The locals regard the theft as a catastrophe, and seek a champion to retrieve their lost treasure. They find their man in Ting
(Tony Jaa), an orphaned youngster raised at the local temple, and schooled by Pra Kru, a kindly monk, in an ancient system of Muay Thai: ‘Nine Body Weapons’.
Ting travels to the mean streets of Bangkok, where he’s forced to compete in illegal street fights, taking on both local and foreign opponents to win the head of ONG BAK from the ruthless crime boss.
THE GOOD: Tony Jaa is simply spectacular. If you love to watch a guy flying around busting skulls then Jaa is a match made in heaven. Jaa searches for the head of the village’s Buddha (Ong-Bak) and will die to find it—and he comes close.
Jaa gets himself into a fight club in Bangkok—sure that is exciting, but it’s the scenes through the streets that are often the most thrilling. Jaa is trained in Muay Thai and maybe the decathlon, too, as he hurdles carts, people, and nearly flies through the tightest places imaginable at full speed. Jaa will leaving you saying, “wow!”
Muay Thai isn’t simply kicks and fists—but elbows and knees. Jaa drops a beating over and over on dozens of guys. If Jaa wasn’t the headliner he’d sure make a great stuntman.
THE BAD: There have been worse martial arts storylines. Most films like this create stories that are excuses for action and Ong Bak is no different.
The instant replay allows a different angle on the amazing stunts and moves of Tony Jaa however it doesn’t fit in the actual high pace of the movie.
FRANKLY: Jackie Chan is a good comedian and Jet Li is fast as lightening—Tony Jaa is a baby-faced elbow dropping destroyer. Most of our experience with fighting, especially martial arts, on film is with fluid fighters and Jaa is more like a stone that moves with quickness. Ong-Bak is thoroughly enjoyable especially for those who seek non-stop action.
+ Charlie Craine