Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior
Hey, fed up with all those kung fu movies where they’re all floatin’ through the air and dancin’ around on the tops of bamboo stalks in the moonlight and all that impossible-mystical-bullshittical crap? Well, then get low, assume your best fighting stance (as good as you can get it in yer movie seat), and brace yourself for more than an hour and a half of straight-up low-rent ass-kicking martial arts brutality with no wires and no computer-graphical crutches, grasshopper.
Tony Jaa plays Ting, a peaceful country boy from the Thai village of Nong Pra-du, and, oh yeah, he’s also a peaceful master of Muay Thai, the “Nine Body Weapons,” which is likely to be the new martial arts craze once people get an
eyeful of Jaa’s skills (and physique you could strike a match on) as he wades inexorably through Bangkok’s criminal underworld on a mission to recover the head of Ong-bak, the village’s sacred Buddha statue, stolen by gangsters, led by the evil crimelord Don (Wannakit Sirioput) specializing in the, uh, relocation of priceless cultural artifacts.
Along for the ride in an uneasy alliance with Ting is Petchtai Wongkamlao as George, aka Humlae aka Dirty Balls, an erstwhile fellow villager who has embraced the seamy side of Bangkok and forsaken his small-town values. Of course, once he sees Ting’s prowess in an illegal prizefight the wheels start turning, you know?
All props to Jet Li and whoever, but Jaa is mos def a viable successor to Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan as far as the skills go, but since his character is kinda in the strong silent type mode here, any evidence of the charisma and humor of his action-hero predecessors will have to be found in another flick, which we really hope there will be more of because we ain’t seen a kung fu movie like this ever. Seriously, this guy Jaa teaches us a valuable lesson: Never use your fists to settle an argument, umkay? Use your knees and elbows ’cuz they’re way more effective.
The flick takes a while to build up a head of steam, but the action is fast, furious, inventive, and bone-motherfuckin’-crunching. It’s not enough that these guys seem to really be taking some of these shots to the dome and everywhere else—it’s, like, there’s guys hittin’ each other with fucking refrigerators. Plus, it’s educational. We’re already psyched for the DVD so we can figure out how to say “Don is a bastard” in Thai.