“ Genre: Action & Adventure / Director: Prachya Pinkaew / Actors: Tony Jaa, Petchtai Wongkamlao ... / DVD released 19 September, 2005 at Contender Entertainment Group / Features of the DVD: Anamorphic, Box set, Dubbed, PAL, Widescreen „
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After seeing a few trailers around for this film i decided to give it a try although i'm usually wary of films that are not released at the cinema first. However since i'm a huge martial arts fan i decided to give this a go.
The story is a typical one of small town kid with some amazing martial arts skills must travel to the big city. In this case his reason is to retrieve a stolen relic from the village. The story is not the most inspiring one but it keeps things simple an focused on the action, of which there is plenty. Tony Jaa is extremely skilled and it is made all the more amazing when you consider this was made on a low budget with no cgi or wire work, everything thing this guy does is real. Unlike martial arts films of old the hits in Ong Bak feel solid and you can readily believe these people are going at it.
The dvd comes with two main choice of tracks, one being a sub standard english dub. The other is the original actors but with english subtitles which is my preferred way of viewing. Some sections of the film are cheesy enough with the poor english dub. Overall this is a film for any martial arts fan or if you're in the mood for some afternoon fun stick this in and sit back.
note: also appears in part on Flixster and The Student Room
Ong-Bak is a film notable for bringing Tony Jaa into the forefront of cinema's modern martial artists. He insists on no wires and no visual effects enhancing his performance; everything you see if performed by him, and if he can't do it, then it's not in the film. Since its release, many have touted Jaa as the next answer to Bruce Lee, and given the strength of this film - in style more than plot - it's not too much of a surprise that people are saying that.
Ting (Jaa) is a noble villager in a small town, where the Ong-Bak statue head has been stolen, so the village all have a whip-round and pay for Ting to get a trip to Bangkok where he will try and hunt down whoever has stolen it. That's about as much plot as you need, because the rest of the film consists of Jaa destroying various baddies in numerous different ways, with extremely clever invention. If you think that Bruce Lee had thought of everything, you're wrong - Jaa flies around in ways that'll amaze you they aren't aided by computers. Although some of his other films, such as The Protector, didn't really deliver enough thrills, this one is sure to be jam-packed with action, not conceited enough to think you really care about a plot in a film like this.
This is a new breed of action film - Jaa insists on using no wires and no CGI - just his own raw strength and agility, and what he achieves here is absolutely astounding. If you're a fan of martial arts films or balls-to-the-wall action, this is one hell of a ride.
Tony Jaa is an outstanding action sequence actor, Fact!
I am a massive fan of martial arts films and grew up watching Bruce Lee, Steven Segal, Jackie Chan, and JCVD (to name a few). When I was introduced to this DVD, my friend hiped this guy up so much I really didn't know what to expect. Bruce Lee was rock hard, Steven Segal had technichal locks and throws, JCVD had flexibility, Jackie chan had stunts mixed with humour, all of these actors have there own strengths and unique style. Tony Jaa has also made his own. TJ uses gymnastic and Muay Thai to display beautifully aggresive, and unique attacks on the badies, as well as jaw dropping physical feats to run or avoid his opponents. One example in this film is where he's cornered by about 6 men with nowhere to go. He runs straight at them, jumps up and runs on the men's 6 shoulders in 6 steps and runs away. Amazing!
Muay thai in my opinion is one of the most affective fighting systems in the world. The UFC fighters all use it to develop their striking skills. It's a no-nonsense style and extremely powerful. He uses these awesome strikes without an ounce of holding back on the poor stunt men, whilst incorporating outstanding gymnastics to bring a bit of flair and beauty to his attacks.
I'll be honest, the story line is predictable much like any other martial arts film and the acting is poor at best. But any martial arts fan will appreciate that you don't watch these films for the acting. It's all about the action, and the action is fantastically original and jaw droppingly good.
The film boasts no CGR, no strings, no holding back. It a mans paradise.
It's been quite a long time since I last sat down to watch a martial arts film. Where as a kid I would love the films of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, in recent years I have failed to come across a film which has stood out as something I'd like to watch. It's taken me a while to come across it but I think I might have found a film which reignites my secret love.
Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior was released in 2003, directed by Prachya Pinkaew and starring film newcomer Tony Jaa. Long time martial arts practitioner Jaa has been trained in the art of Muay Thai since childhood and has for many years been trying to bring it into the mainstream and make a film revolving round it. I was actually already aware of the martial art Muay Thai before seeing Ong-Bak, seeing it in practice in UFC and other MMA bouts; it is exciting and different and really gives an average looking martial arts film that little something different.
The basic plot of the film is that a sacred Buddha statue called Ong Bak is stolen from a village by an immoral businessman who sells it for profit. A young man called Ting (Jaa) takes on the task of recovering the statue and thus delves into the seedy Bangkok underworld in an attempt to recover it, fighting bad guys as he goes. That's basically all there is to it. The thing is though plot really isn't important in a film like this, when watching a martial arts film I personally couldn't care very much what it's about; it's all about the exciting action and choreographed violence. Yes the plot is cheesy and lacking any depth, but it really doesn't take anything away from what the film really is. The same can be said for the acting, Jaa is not an actor, he's a stuntman, and so is most of the cast. But again, this is not important.
It wouldn't be wrong to say this is more of a stunt reel than a film, but when reviewing it you need to compare Ong-Bak to what is currently released and what has been in the martial arts genre. Jaa's intention with this film was a get Muay Thai in the public eye and for that he has succeeded in a big way. Ong-Bak has spread round the world in various different releases and has been a major success story.
The Muay Thai style is genuinely different to the normal style of fighting seen in film such as this, it exciting and full on, and Tony Jaa is absolutely brilliant. He's got a massive career ahead of him, and you can easily see how he's been called the new Jackie Chan, which is a fitting honour. He does all his own stunts and never uses CGI or wires; it's truly mind-blowing how some of these choreographed scenes are actually done, they're fresh and absolutely great entertainment.
As I said before its quite difficult to rate Ong-Bak as a film, as far as plot and acting goes both failed to impress me in any way, but for me that's not so important. It's all about the fight scenes and how much I enjoyed them, and for that it's got to score high. Ong-Bak is a really fun film, it's not gonna win any Oscars but it was never intended to, it's an exciting adrenaline filled 105 minutes which will leave you in awe of how Jaa and his fellow stunt men do these things.
Main Cast includes;
Tony Jaa as Ting
Petchtai Wongkamlao as Humlae/George
Pumwaree Yodkamol as Muay Lek
Suchao Pongwilai as Komtuan
Wannakit Sirioput as Don
Chumphorn Thepphithak as Uncle Mao
Rungrawee Barijindakul as Ngek
Chatthapong Pantanaunkul as Saming
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Release Date: January 21, 2003
Runtime: 105 minutes
Language: Thai (Subtitles)
Certification: 18 (strong violence, language, some drug use and sexuality)
This is an amazing martial arts and stunt film starring Tony Jaa. It has some scenes of strong violence and a few other adult themes which means it was given an 18 certificate.
The story stars Ting-Panom Yeerum (Tony Jaa) who abandoned on the steps of a rural village temple shortly after birth , grows up to become a master of Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) and becomes a hero to his people.He lives in a small and peaceful village with the only people he has ever known.
When the head of Ong-Bak, the sacred Buddha of the poor village is stolen, the peace is disturbed and the population is plunged into misery. The buddha was believed to bring health and prosperity to the village and its people. Young Ting is selected by the villagers to travel to Bangkok and rescue the relic in time for an anniversary vigil ceremony where the buddha was set to be the focal point. Ting has an affinity with the statue as he was left on the temple steps as a baby and raised by monks, who taught him muay thai, but forbade him to use it in combat.
Now with the future of his people at stake he has to sacrifice all he believes in and single handedly overcome a ruthless criminal empire and bring back the treasured buddha statue.
The storyline is predictable and the plot is not anything spectacular but the fight scenes, stunts and great action make up for it. In making the film there were no stunt doubles, no wire work and no CGI (Computer generated imagery). There is alot of pure action and entertainment. There are some incredible fight scenes and some great martial arts sequences. It showcases Tony Jaa's incredible talent as a showman and martial artist and favourable comparisons have been made to the likes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Overall it is a fantastic movie and great for fans of the genre of martial arts movies.
Starring Tony Jaa
Distributed by Sahamongkol Film International
Release date January 2003
Running time 105 min.
I have been a fan of martial arts films ever since I was a teenager and Channel 4 had a season of Jackie Chan films, showing one every Friday Night (if I remember rightly). The first one I saw was Police Story. I could not beleive what I was watching, it was truely amaazing. The story line was a bit mediocre but worked well. It was the fight scenes and Jackie Chans' atheltic moves that really shone out. The fight choreography was at times absolutely breathtaking, one scene in particular had me rewinding (I had recorded the film) and watching it again and again because there were so many little moves and physical tricks that needed to be seen several times to really be taken in.... From that film I was hooked.
I have since watched loads of Jackie Chan films and enjoyed his performances in them all, his skills at not only the martial arts but also loads of little physical tricks and jumps etc etc and even his ability to add moments of light comedy relief are extremely entertaining. As well as Jackies' films, I have also watched the Bruce Lee films and various other martial arts films with a whole bunch of different lead stars and while I do enjoy them, noone even the almighty Bruce Lee, have managed to be as exciting on the screen as Jackie Chan.
Having been rather disappointed with some of his later films, especially his Hollywood films, I was feeling a little let down, I wanted more or the brilliantly put together fight scenes and less of the comedic banter. It was around this time that I first heard about Tony Jaa a Thai stunt man turned actor/director.
I heard about a film he had made in which his fighting was all done with out mechanical assistance or any computer imagery. I also heard that it was really rather brutal. Naturally I had to watch it, that film was Ong Bak.
I purchased the film on Dvd and sat down to watch it with my girlfriend (who also enjoys martial arts films) fairly late on evening. We decided to go for the English dub rather that the native Thai with subtitles as we were both rather tired.
After the first couple of minutes we had to go back to the native Thai soundtrack as the English dubbing was absolutely terrible. If you ever watched the trashy channel 4 series Eurotrash and remember the really rubbish camp sounding dubbing they used to put on everyone, you will have a good idea as to how the dubbing sounds. It really was hard to get any feeling or emotion from the dub.
After switching back to the Thai sound track, we were much happier with it, it now felt like a proper film rather than a super-camp jokey film.
The story line (as with quite a lot of martial arts films) is quite a basic premise, a sacred idol is stolen from a tribal village. The best warrier from the village swears to get it back and ends up getting into lots of fights along the way. It's nothing special but I never expected that so I wasn't disappointed.
The main focus of the film is the action, and oh my what great action it is. The fighting is centred around the martial art of Muay Thai, a rather brutal form of combat which includes lots of elbows and knees delivered with great force. I am amazed at some of the bits of action that have been allowed to stay in the film seeing as the BBFC is normally quite harsh on fighting moves that it deems to be easy to copy (a simple headbutt for example was cut from Star Wars Episode 2).
Tony Jaa's physical presence in this film is at times completely astonishing, some of the Muay Thai moves he displays are breathtaking, and some of the physical tricks that he performs will have to rewinding and rewatching time and time again, it really is a great and very exciting film to watch!!!
The moment the film finished, I wanted to skip back to several bits of action that looked amazing on first look, and even more so when watched again in slow-motion.
My conclusion of this film is simple, it is brilliant! If you are not an existing fan of the genre you might find the storyline rather simplistic, if you are already a fan of the genre I'm sure you will be able to overlook this as let's face it a great many of the films of the genre don't really have much going on in terms of plot. This is in no means a bad thing nor does it detract from the greatness of the film as it is almost a convention of the genre to have a simple plot designed to take the main character on a journey which will lead to a lot of fighting, and in these terms it functions well.
The action in this film, as I have already said, is amazing and I am certain it will win Tony Jaa a huge amount of fans and have people desperate to see more of what he can do.
The only let down of this film really is the dire English dubbing. Normally I am very happy to watch films in their native language with subtitles as I feel you get more feeling from the original dialogue, however there are occasions (normally when it's late and I'm tired) when I feel like watching such a film in English. I really feel that this would completely ruin Ong Bak as the dubbing is so very terrible. I also feel this might put off a lot of people who don't like to read subtitles and as such the film loses a star for this, with a decent English dub this would easily have been a 5 star film!!!
If you like martial arts films, ytou really must check this out!!!
Ong Bak is a 2003 film directed by Prachya Pinkaew. Tony Jaa gets his first role as the main star of a film here. It is a brutally beautiful film that is made for one reason and one reason alone. That is to showcase the talents of the up and coming Tony Jaa. He had been making waves on the underground scene for a while now but it was not until Ong bak that he really became noticed. If you like martial arts films then you are sure to love this film and hopefully enjoy this review.
Tony Jaa as Ting
Petchtai Wongkamlao as Humlae
Pumwaree Yodkamol as Muay Lek
Suchao Pongwilai as Komtuan
The plot is pretty simple. The head of the statue that is very sacred is stolen, so a young martial artist, Tony Jaa, is determined to bring the statue head back. He goes to the big city and has no idea what he has put himself into. He has to take on the underworld to get the statue head back, which is full of experienced versatile fighters. He uses his unique fighting skills to compete with these enemies and tries to bring the statue head back once and for all.
OPINION/MY VIEWING EXPERIENCE:
If you are looking for a good story then you will not get that with Ong bak. Ong bak is just a fight movie with the fight scenes being the highlight. My favourite scene is when Tony Jaa and Petchtai are on the run from the enemy. They run across many streets and Tony Jaa really shows of his acrobatics and flexibility. This is the first point in the movie you see him do anything special and it is clear after this scene that he is a supremely talented martial artist, even though he has not done any fighting yet. The good thing about him taking on the underworld is that there are lots of different fighters, so you see how he tackles and defenders against them, which is awesome. Make sure you also look out for the scene where he has to fight with his legs on fire. It is a very memorable scene and I have never seen anything like that attempted before.
One of the best martial arts films in recent times and very different to the modern day epic martial arts movies released like Hero and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. This is a brutal affair with no string attached. Literally it is advertised as being all filmed with no strings or wires, no CGI and no stunt doubles. Tony Jaa is definitely one for the future and after this film and also Tom Yum Goong, which I also highly recommend; it looks like Tony Jaa is here to stay. A new breed of martial arts hero is born.
Ong Bak is the 2003 film directed by Prachya Pinkaew, choreographed by Panna Rittikrai, starring the great Tony Jaa as Ting, and Thai comedian Petchtai Wongkamlao and George (Humlae).
The thing with Tony Jaa is he doesn't have the screen presence on Bruce Lee, or the charisma of Jackie Chan, but what he can do is perform fight scenes better than anyone before him. It takes Jaa atleast twice as long as his predecessors to make a movie because of the one fact that makes him better then those before him - he doesn't use wire's! There is no jumping over house's 'Crouching Tiger' style, no mid air fights with opponents freezing still in mid air for 30 seconds, just Tony Jaa doing incredible feats of agility and skill. If anyone doesn't believe he's not using wires I suggest you look up 'Tony Jaa high kick' on you tube and watch in amazement.
The main story of the film is that a small poor Thai village the head of a ancient buddah statue named Ong Bak has been stolen. The statue is worshipped by the village's people so Ting decides he will find Ong Bak at any cost. This leads him to the big city were he meets his cousin Humlae (Wongkamlao) who has renamed himself George (for reasons I'll let you find out) who takes a interest in Ting's quest after seeing the amount of money the village have given him. The main story isn't exactly the most compelling in the world and if your looking for a strong plot I suggest looking elsewhere, but most people who buy this film will be getting it to watch Jaa's jump and fight which he happily does constantly.
Their journey leads into many fights and chases, with the scene where they are pursued down a busy Thai street really showcasing what Jaa can do. The fight scene's are breath taking and only rivalled by Jaa's other major film 'Warrior King' ('Tom-Yum-Goong' in some countries).
The sound isn't fantastic, with the sound effects in some of the fight scenes slightly out of sync. Depending on which version your store has you may end up with rock music in a lot of the scenes, or like me with hip-hop. The English dub sounds more like a mixture of local accents from around England than your usual American voice dub, at times sounding more like a British soap opera than martial arts film.
I imagine because of the many different releases and different audio that has been used for this film a lot of dialogue may have been lost in translation (I've seen 3 different dvd version's with slightly different subtitles).
The picture quality varies from scene to scene, with it being top notch in most of the fight scenes, but in other darker scenes it does suffer a bit.
Overall I really enjoyed this film and would recommend it to martial arts and action movie fans everywhere. I would be 5 starts if it wasn't for the loose story.
Recent martial arts films, to be fair to them, have been, well, a little bit flowery. Crouching Tiger, Hero and The House of Flying Daggers are prime suspects one, two and three when it comes to making a mockery of the pureness of the (martial) art. Sure the development of a storyline, decent acting and some rather beautiful cinematography is a welcome addition to the genre, but what's all that rather silly wire-fu business about? The art is not supposed to be ballet. Having actors flying about on wires and prancing on water like Bambi might look nice, but Bruce Lee's probably lying six feet away from where he was buried the amount he's now turned in his grave. The old master would not be impressed that brutal beatings with nunchucka's have been replaced with romance and quasi-Fu! Which is why Ong-Bak is a rather refreshing return to the norm
Ong-Bak is cheap, dirty and brutal - similar to Lee's earlier Hong Kong work like The Big Boss, Fists of Fury and Way of the Dragon. It concentrates simply on the martial art (Mu-Thai in this instance) tells the story to take a hike and in doing so has created one of the most thrilling, entertaining, brutal, hardcore and, ironically, beautiful articulation of the art not seen in many a long year. And in newcomer Tony Jaa, it has a contender to rival the thrones of Bruce, Jackie Chan and Jet Li.
The story is paper thin. Ting (Tony Jaa) travels from the Thai countryside to a tourist, Thai-gangster laden Bangkok, in order to retrieve the stolen head of his village's sacred statue, Ong-Bak, or his land will be ruined by a drought. The statue has fallen into the hands of a Thai crime lord, so Ting falls in with a former villager, now corrupted by life in the big city, and his girlfriend to retrieve Ong-Bak. Cue lots of fighting. And that's it. Seriously. That simple! But who in there right mind will be going to see this film for the plot?
The main draw of Ong-Bak is undoubtedly due to its wire-free, non computer enhanced fights and stunts and these deliver on every level. Gone are the wonderful artistry of Hero and Crouching Tiger, likewise the balletesque fight sequences using wires and CGI. Ong-Bak is hardcore to the extreme. From the awesome opening sequence which involves several characters taking flying leaps out of a tree onto the bone-dry ground, in single takes (which is just like, utterly bonkers), to the Bruce Lee-esque Ting decking a combatant with a single blink and you'll miss it swirling knee to the chest (read as awesome), you know you're in for a real visual treat. But these events are merely for starters. A frantic chase down back alleys, with Ting hurdling over and under moving cars in single bounds, diving through barbed wire and somersaulting between sheets of glass will go down as this years best chase sequence. It also highlights Jaa's fantastic agility and acrobatic ability to a tee and the delicate timing and choreography that the stunt team worked on to garner the perfect shot. And then there's the actual uncompromising, bone-crunching fights themselves.
A bar fight where one combatant continually assaults Ting with whatever happens to be at hand, from tables to even a fridge (seriously), with our hero simply blocking everything thrown at him with his knees and elbows, is highly memorable. Every single blow of every fight has the audience squirming and leaping out of their seat as if they've just felt the full impact (you haven't felt a real broken leg until you've seen this film). The speed at which the fights are undertaken is frantic, yet beautifully orchestrated. And any man willing to have his legs set on fire before kicking some serious arse is deserving of our respect. Jaa is exceptional as the Mu-Thai trained semi-monk out of his depth in the big city. Sure he couldn't act his way out of a paper bag, but with his dialogue trimmed to the bare necessities, it allows us to concentrate on his fluid, animal-like movements and wonderfully articulated mastery of his art. Literally Jaa's body can do anything - Van Damme's fraudulent portrayal in Kickboxer has now been rightly condemned to the bin of pussy-whipped, utter bollocks martial arts flicks. Jaa is the real thing.
However, your enjoyment of Ong-Bak will depend on how forgiving you are of its faults at the expense of such high-calibre and entertaining action. The plot is your standard kung fu rubbish that a team of monkey's bashing away on a keyboard could out think and only serves to move the action on from one set-piece to the next. It is essentially genre cliché after genre cliché - from Ting's monk forced into fighting against his will, to the comedy sidekick his cousin George (Petchtai Wongkamlao) portrays, to the uber-hard nemesis of Ting who just happens to keep on getting up after each successive kicking. Few characters are fleshed out anymore than a rather basic acknowledgement of their good or bad alignment. Other complaints also highlight the slow moving first half of them, as it takes a while to get to the action. Here plodding plotting takes over and underlying themes between the good of the countryside and the evils of the city are put across in an appallingly basic way. And then there's George's girlfriend Muay Lek (Pumwaree Yodkamol). Probably the most annoying female lead ever to grace the cinema screen, her high-pitched screeching makes the wail of a banshee seem somewhat soothing and relaxing, as you beg her to be replaced. A major annoyance throughout.
But, once you get to the second half of Ong-Bak most of these complaints are quickly forgotten. You won't draw breath. Guaranteed! For much of this we can thank writer/director Prachya Pinkaew. Whilst his writing skills may need a hefty amount of work, his eye for the camera is much more successful. Inventive set pieces and multiple camera set-ups for the choreographed action give the film a visceral, visual flair. Plus the pace doesn't let up. Three successive bar-room punch-up's in a Thai bar highlight the energy and adrenaline Pinkaew endeavours to provide the movie, moving swiftly from one brutal fight to the next for the audience's entertainment. Working with the elements available to him in the Thai film industry, he has done a rather splendid job.
Sure, Ong-Bak is silly, daft, plotless, unnecessarily slap-sticky in places and poorly acted at times. But, with some gut-wrenching visuals, nicely portrayed cinematography, brilliantly orchestrated choreography (you literally feel every punch), magnificent stunt work, fast-paced action, a short running time and a freshness of place long overdue in the martial arts genre, this is probably the most entertaining cinema visit I've had since seeing The Matrix back in 1999. All hail to the throne of Tony Jaa - the next martial arts legend in the making. Sorry Bruce
Overall - Ong-Bak is quite simply the Evil Dead 2 of the martial arts genre - I can't acclaim it any higher. A work of low-grade, cheap, independent genius. Not for all, but those that like their style over substance or a return to the martial arts film of old will certainly get what Ong-Bak is all about. Brilliant!
Warning - This film contains subtitles and may not be appropriate to people unwilling to give foreign films a chance!
Director - Prachya Pinkaew
Screenplay - Prachya Pinkaew, Panna Rittikrai, Suphachai Sithiamphan & Suphachai Sittiaumponpan
Tony Jaa .... Ting
Petchtai Wongkamlao .... Humlae/Dirty Balls/George
Pumwaree Yodkamol .... Muay Lek
Suchao Pongwilai .... Komtuan
Wannakit Sirioput .... Don
Chumphorn Thepphithak .... Uncle Mao
Chatthapong Pantanaunkul .... Saming
Chatewut Watcharakhun .... Peng
Rungrawee Barijindakul .... Ngek
Nudhapol Asavabhakhin .... Yoshiro
Running Time - 101 minutes
Certificate - 18
Genre - Martial Arts/Action/Adventure
© Clownfoot, September 2005. This review can also be found at ciao.co.uk where it was originally posted.
Thai films are not a big draw here, or in the Western world at all as far as I can tell. 'Tears of The Black Tiger', a psychedelic cowboy musical, was the first one to ever get a UK cinema release, though it was closely followed by the magnificent true sports story/comedy 'Iron Ladies', and both of these were released over here only 3-4 years ago.
'Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior' is being sold as the first Thai martial arts film to go worldwide and offers viewers a return to real martial arts fighting, as opposed to the 'wire-fu' (wire attached fighting) of the recent imports of 'Crouching Tiger', 'Hero' & 'House of Flying Daggers'.
In fact the ads proudly proclaim that there isn't any stunt doubles in the movie, every piece of action is real and that there is no CGI, what you see on screen is what the actors actually did in front of the camera.
Tony Jaa is a Muay Thai champion, better known as Thai boxing over here, and it shows. His acting is not that great but his fluidity, his economy of movement and his fighting ability makes all the claims of no artificial enhancements to the filming all the more believable, after all the cynics amongst us are always dubious about such claims are we not? Unfortunately his acting skills do make the non-action scenes he is in pretty awful but the director seems to realise this and keeps him out of a lot of what could laughably be called the 'plot' development scenes!
The festival of Ong-Bak is a once every 24 years celebration performed in the small village of Nong Pradu, Thailand. It is a ceremony completed by the villagers to guarantee the success of the village in the future and the time for the next festival is fast approaching when a minor gangster called Don steals the head of their Ong-Bak statue, a religious artefact not unlike a statue of Buddha.
Ting, soon to be ordained as a priest and a student of Muay Thai, volunteers to go to Bangkok and retrieve the head before the festival.
Arriving in Bangkok Ting finds George, a small time criminal (very, very, small time) and a fellow Nong Pradu villager, and his girlfriend, Muay Lek. He tries to enlist their help but instead finds himself embroiled in their own petty squabbles with some other gangsters.
Ting gets caught up in a 'fight club', due to George of course, and does find time to start investigating the missing head in amongst his other adventures.
That is pretty much the basics of the plot; there isn't much to it because the plot isn't what this is all about. Ong-Bak is all about the martial arts and the fighting!
Ong-Bak is a very old style martial arts film. It is brutal in its depiction of the fighting and certainly deserves its 18 certificate, but it also takes a lot from the films of Jackie Chan. The larger, bumbling comedic friend and the crazy, stylised chases, especially the foot one, are right out of Chan's storybook. In fact Ong-Bak is very much a combination of the violence martial arts of Bruce Lee and the comedy, stunt filled skills of Jackie Chan.
The first big showing of Jaa's martial prowess in combat is a superb fast and brutal confrontation in a 'fight club'. He is tricked into fighting the reigning club champion and the filming of this fight is stunning, you will have to see it to believe it!
Every single fight in Ong-Bak is violent and can even make you cringe with the brutality of it. You can actually see the recipients of the kicks, punches et al bracing themselves for getting struck, and doing I tin such a way that I am almost certain that they were actually getting hit. Not a shard as it looked I'm sure but they certainly did seem to be connecting. If they weren't then the camera work, editing and stunt choreography is the best I have ever seen! There has not been a movie with such realistic violence for a long, long time, and while the movie overall may not be that great it is nice to see a film maker/studio not pander to a bigger audience and film or cut scenes to get a lower certificate, something that American films seem to do far too often.
Getting away from the violence there is still a lot to like in this film. The foot chase through the streets of Bangkok, with Ting and George being hounded by a large gang of criminals could easily be inserted into an early Chan movie. Ting using everything he knows to leap over, slide under or dive through whatever obstacle gets in his way. This includes rolls of barbwire, tables, vehicles and even, in an extraordinary stunt, across the heads and shoulders of his pursuers! This is superbly shot and even includes some great slow motion replays or different angle repeats of a stunt. This is highly original and leaves you with your mouth open in amazement at some of it. If the stunts are real as they declare, and the y do look it, then Jaa is incredibly agile!
The other major chase is a comic vehicle dash around the streets of Bangkok in their peculiar 'Tuk tuks', a kind of motorised version of a horse carriage. They seem to be a kind of taxi and a chase involving them is like watching a chase with milk floats! The seriousness of the danger ting and George are in offset by the ludicrous vehicles they are in.
There are a few problems with the subtitles, they seem very simplistic and this is very noticeable. Not annoyingly so but enough that you wonder whether the actual meaning of what was said had been translated badly.
The second thing I noticed was that there is a very obvious stunt double at one stage for George, as he is a well-known Thai comedian maybe this isn't too surprising but it does make you wonder about the makers announcement about stunt doubles. Were there any doubles for Jaa and the others? I still don't think so but up until that moment I was certain there wasn't!
Overall Ong-Bak is only really for big martial arts fans or very big Chan fans. It is not a film for the faint hearted and will probably not appeal to many filmgoers outside the 18-30 range. Personally I enjoyed it for what it was a showcase for the skills and acrobatics of Tony Jaa and a showcase for how much more realistic a film can look if it avoids the use of CGI.
Running Time: 105 minutes
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Main cast (not that I have heard of any of them before!)
Tony Jaa (Panum Yeerum) - Ting
Mum Jokemok (Petchthai Wongkamtao) - George
Pumwaree Yodkamoi - Muay Lek
Suchoa Pongvilai - Komtuan
Thai films have never really broken into england. To be honest it was only seven years ago when Rush Hour (1998) arrived worldwide that Jackie Chan was noticed by a mainstream audience. Since then, Chinese martial art films and Asian films in general (especially Japanese and Korean horror films) have achieved success and recognition by a wider audience.
Ong Bak is the first Thai film to really start an interest in both Muay-Thai martial arts and Thai filmmaking. On top of that, the choreography and action sequences are some of the best I have seen in the last decade mainly due to its realism and Tony Jaa's amazing physical capabilities.
The story involves the stealing of a religious idol from a small village in Thailand to be sold on the black market. Ting (Tony Jaa) takes it apon himself to travel to Bangkok and retrieve the much revered and respected idol from a traitorous Thai village member Don (Wannakit Sirioput).
The plot isn't one for the brain to work on overload, like most action movie plots, but it does give an insight into Thai culture and their strong religious beliefs.
In terms of the action scenes there are plenty and each one is well choreographed and realistic. You may even find that you don't believe he doesn't use wires, but he doesn't. Leaping through fire, diving through holes of barbed wire and leaping over cars are just a small selection of perfectly performed athletic movements he accomplishes. The Muay-Thai fighting is traditional and Jaa spent 4 years training in this Thai art form before doing the movie. Some of the movements are embellished but it is all based on traditional and some lost techniques.
The dvd has a multitude of extra's which include :
Feature Length Commentary By Bey Logan - Very informative.
The Road To Glory Making Of Featurette - Good.
The Art Of Muay Thai Documentary - very interesting.
From Dust To Glory Interview With Tony Jaa - Nice addition.
Ong Bak On Tour Promo - Live proof of his capabilities.
Deleted Scenes - fairly standard, nothing special.
Visible Secret - choreography practice (unaired)
The Bodyguard Interview With Don Ferguson
Mad Dog Interview With David Ismalone
Pearl Harbour Interview With Erik Markus Sheutz
UK Promotional Trailer
All of the inclusions give you even more insight into how the film was made and the work that people put in.
There are two seperate soundtracks that can be played over the feature - original and specific one for UK release of dvd.
English sub-titles, which are needed!
The language is Thai.
Basically if you are an action fan, a martial art fan, or even think that a Thai film may be interesting to watch, I can highly recommend this movie. Hollywood, get in line behind Jaa because he just does it better.
No computer graphic can ever surpass what a real human body can do--and what the body can do is on spectacular display in Ong-Bak, a Thai action movie starring the lithe and flexible Tony Jaa. When the head is stolen from a holy statue in Jaa's rural village, he goes to Bangkok to get it back. Of course, it just so happens that the thief is connected to a bar where criminal big shots gamble over bare-knuckle brawls, and Jaa is--despite his virtuous efforts--drawn into the game. But that's only the beginning; a chase through the city streets rivals the ingenious acrobatics of Jackie Chan, with Jaa leaping between panes of glass, over a bicycle in motion, and through a wreath of barbed wire. Jaa's fighting prowess has been compared to Bruce Lee, Jet Li, and just about every other martial arts master, but he has an equal degree of charisma as well. He won't win acting awards, but his engaging presence carries the movie. One word of warning: The numerous fights will make you wince as much as gape in astonishment. Ong-Bak follows the action-flick tradition that the hero needs to be as battered as possible before he ultimately triumphs, and the battering is intense. --Bret Fetzer, Amazon.com