Review of:Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (2005)
Rating:R for sequences of strong violence, language, some drug use and sexuality.
Starring:Tony Jaa, Petchthai Wongkamlao, Pumwaree Yodkamol, Rungrawee Borrijindakul, Chetwut Wacharakun
Since the departure of Bruce Lee there has been an immense hole in the Martial Arts genre that hasn’t been filled. Sure Jet Li and Jackie Chan have brought elements of excitement to the screen‚ but not to the levels that Bruce had. In viewing the film Ong Bak I finally feel that the time has come. The star of the film‚ Tony Jaa carries elements of both of the aforementioned Martial Artists‚ and shows that he may well be the man to carry the boulder Bruce Lee once shouldered.
Ong Bak is a traditional Martial Arts film that could easily have been produced in the seventies. It follows the same formula. 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 Bangkok crime boss Khom Tuan. The locals of the village regard the theft as a catastrophe, and seek a champion to retrieve their lost treasure. They find their man in Ting (Tony Jaa aka Panom Yeerum), 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 pitiless underworld kingpin.
One of the points the film seems to make is the distinction of priorities. Ting (Tony Jaa) is representative of the good in people. Since he is from the countryside, he is shown in the light of being naive to how the real world really operates. This contrast becomes very apparent when he arrives in town. The man that is supposed to help him as become jaded to the old ways‚ and his attitude toward Ting shows it.
The film follows along the lines of Martial Arts films that showcase streetfighting. Think a non bloody version of Lion Heart or Blood Sport. Even though it is not graphic, the film makes its point quite well. Tony Jaa is the wrong man to have on your bad side‚ and when he is finally coaxed into the ring it’s explosive.
One of my favorite parts of the film is the action sequence where Tony Jaa is running from the gang. The sequence shows why comparisons will be made between Jaa and Jackie Chan.
If you like those old style Martial Arts films or if you just want to see the beginning of the legend of Tony Jaa this is the film to see.