Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (2003)

This movie is beyond fucking awesome. In fact, why are you even reading this? Go and see it. Now. Go now. Go now, because it's a Thai movie and therefore might not be in cinemas long, and you will kick yourself forever if you miss this.

Seriously. Go. NOW.


Okay. In a small, Thai village, times are hard: there's a drought, crops are failing, and on top of all the physical hardship, the head of the town's stone buddha, Ong-Bak, has been stolen. Young warrior, Ting (Tony Jaa), is sent, with all the money the townspeople can muster, to the big city to retrieve the idol: the fate of his village depends on it. In Bangkok, Ting teams up with "George" (Perttary Wongkamlao) and Muay (Pumwaree Yodkamol), who see Ting's incredible fighting skills as a way to make lots of money, coercing him into using his forbidden skills by dangling the promise of help finding Ong-Bak in front of him.

And that's basically all there is, plot-wise. The main villain of the piece is a sinister man in a wheelchair with a hole in his throat, who uses an electronic device to speak in a way which is both chilling and hilarious. There are a couple of poignant -- or, actually, downright dark and depressing -- moments, but these are swept away by the sheer hilarity of this movie.

Although the cinema was less than a quarter full, the entire audience were thoroughly enthralled by Ting's adventures: to the point of laughing, cheering, wincing, and, at one point, spontaneously bursting into unanimous applause. Ong-Bak is non-stop action; it grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go till it's finished. Bizarrely, at some points it's reminiscent of computer games: there are platform game elements, a car -- well, tuk-tuk -- chase, and Tekken-style arena fights. The main selling point of Ong-Bak is that there's no CGI or wires. All of the fighting is for real. Tony Jaa has been hailed as the new Jackie Chan, and it's for good reason. The action is breathtaking, and awe-inspiring. The film is all too aware of this, too: the most impressive action shots are shown multiple times, from multiple angles, which, though detracting from the "realism", gets to be almost necessary. Those stunts need to be seen from every concievable angle, they're just too beautiful not to.

Most of the movie is yellow in tone -- except for a few eyeball-searing transitions into glaring white -- which seems somehow bizarrely fitting. Spectres of older martial arts movies are ever-present, though not intrusive. Though the plot is decidedly flimsy, it's far from being the point, and the characters are fleshed out enough to make them not only believable but sympathetic -- George, in particular, provoked the most cheers, and the most sympathetic groans, in spite of inhabiting the role of "comic relief" for most of the movie. The only low point was Muay, who was rather unnecessary and incredibly irritating, but happily also easily overlooked.

I can't say enough good things about this movie. Trust me on this: see it.

IMDB link

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