Ong-Bak is an exciting action flick featuring martial arts phenomenon Tony Jaa. This film features some breathtaking acrobatics and fight choreography, it is very inventive and shockingly brutal. Jaa proves himself one of the best martial artists around today and fans of the genre should get a hold of this as soon as they can.
Ting is abandoned on the steps of the village temple shortly after birth. The temple priest used to be a martial arts master and he trains Ting in the art of Muay Thai (Thai boxing). By the time Ting is a young adult he has become a fearsome warrior and so it is no surprise that he is sent to Bangkok to retrieve the stolen head of the village Buddha, known as Ong-Bak when it is stolen by the selfish and greedy Don.
The villagers give Ting what little money they have to help with his quest and he sets out to enlist the help of a fellow native of the village who has moved to Bangkok, a rough and ready character by the name of Humlae. Ting has a job convincing the cynical Humlae to help him and soon gets dragged into an underground scene of drugs and fight clubs.
The action moves at a fairly blistering pace and there are chases and fights aplenty. Prachya Pinkaew is the talented director involved and the choreography is simply fantastic. Pinkaew includes elements of humour amongst the brutal action and while the plot is fairly generic and reminiscent of early Jackie Chan films the approach here is refreshingly different and the film is imbued with a much more visceral feel.
The acting is pretty decent and there are plenty of interesting characters. Petchtai Wongkamlao plays the comical Humlae and provides a much needed comic touch to lighten the affair. The big evil boss is a great character made all the more horrible by his smoking induced use of a nasty sounding electronic voice box. Obviously the star of the show is Tony Jaa as Ting, his skills have to be seen to be believed and he appears to possess all the brutal directness of Bruce Lee combined with the acrobatic abilities of Jackie Chan. It seems likely a long successful career is in the offing for Jaa and after watching this most martial arts fans will be clamouring for more.
The cliched plot trundles along, providing several opportunities for Ting to prove his fighting prowess and although predictable things unfold in a satisfying manner. As you may expect events build towards an impossible showdown in which Ting must defeat multiple opponents in a breathtaking orgy of violence.
The box proclaims that the movie features no stunt doubles, wire work or CGI and I must admit to my scepticism. How Jaa is capable of the acrobatics involved here without wires is beyond me, to give an example at one point he runs towards a group of hoods jumps into the air and uses their heads and shoulders as stepping stones to make his escape. Jaa combines these acrobatic skills with a tightly defined and deeply impressive fighting style. His perfectly formed moves are chained together into devastating attacks and delivered with such ferocity you can´t imagine anyone standing up to them.
Ong-Bak is an explosive, energetic and thoroughly entertaining movie. 104 minutes of excellent action beautifully filmed with nice comedic touches and some jaw-dropping stunts. Tony Jaa is a potential martial arts legend and we can only hope his future output lives up to the lofty standards set here.