Ong-Bak is loaded with literally hundreds of "Holy Crap!" moments that will make you wince in pain and your jaw drop. Repeat viewings are heavily suggested.
Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior
Directors: Prachya Pinkaew
Producers: Luc Besson
Writers: Prachya Pinkaew and Panna Rittikrai (Story) Suphachai Sithiamphan and Suphachai Sittiaumponpan (Screenplay)
Features: *Featurettes * Music Video *Trailers
Humlae/Dirty Balls/George...Petchtai Wongkamlao
Muay Lek...Pumwaree Yodkamol
Letís just set the record straight, Ong-Bak isnít a real movie. It has a plot. It has actors playing characters. It has a villain and a conflict, but itís not a movie. It is, for all intends and purposes, a fair budgeted stunt reel for upcoming stunt man and actor, Tony Jaa, whose Muay Thai martial arts skills combined with his extreme human agility, make for one formidable action star.
Ong-Bak begins in a small Thai village, where the local deity statue head, Ong-Bak, has been stolen. The town decides to send Ting, their greatest warrior, to Bangkok to retrieve the head. Along the way, Ting meets up with a few old friends and a gang of hoodlums who force him into fighting at a Bangkok fight club. Fighting ensues, then chases, then more fighting and so on and so on. You know the drill.
Sure, some may find the plot somewhat enjoyable, but the real meat and potatoes of this film are the high flying stunts performed by Tony Jaa. Heís a sort of modern day Tarzan--able to leap around and over things as though they werenít even there. One moment heíll be jumping through a three foot wide barbed wire hole and just five feet down the road, heíll jump clear over a car with his legs in the splits position.
Iíd suggest skipping the plot, which is as old as film itself, and just stick with the action. The movie is a little too long as theyíve crammed in 70 minutes of movie and 45 minutes of fighting. Just watch the 45 minutes and save yourself some time.
If Tony Jaaís fighting style and stunts donít amaze you, then this will be one boring movie for you. But, Iím guessing martial arts fans and non fans alike will unite to promote the unbelievable talents of this young up-and-comer. This film is loaded with literally hundreds of "Holy Crap!" moments that will make you wince in pain and your jaw drop. Repeat viewings are heavily suggested.
As entertainment: * * * * (just the action)
As a film: *
Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen 1:85:1, Ong-Bak looks okay. Iím not sure if the film was shot poorly or if it had something to do with the DVD production, but several scenes of this movie shift in color from shot to shot. In one shot, the lighting will be more of a lighter yellow (yellow is heavily overused here). In the very next shot, the image will appear more natural. Itís not noticeable at first, but after several minutes it will become a bit distracting for any DVD enthusiast. This could have been changed in the telecine process. Iím guessing this film wasnít remastered. Slightly disappointing.
Here youíve got two choices, English Dolby Surround and Thai 5.1 Surround. Both are pretty center heavy, but surround effects are better in the Thai version. The English dubbing is horrible, but if youíre watching the film simply for the fights, keep it on the English setting.
English and Spanish subtitles are also available.
Surprisingly, there is fair assortment of special features for fans to enjoy.
First up, thereís a live performance from Tony Jaa. This really isnít worth watching as what youíll see in the film is far better.
Next up, thereís a quick featurette featuring the eight movements of Muay Thai, the incredible fighting style used in the film (It has been reported that Tony Jaa spent four years learning this style for the film).
After the featurette, check out the Selected B-Roll which are basically a series of extended scenes.
Finally, if youíre a fan of the RZA, check out the following featurettes: Music Video, Making of the Music Video and Promo with the RZA. Personally, I found the RZAís music to be distracting in the film and thus, I didnít really care for most of these special features. The RZAís score (which was added by Luc Besson who re-edited this release from its original theatrical exhibition) didnít match the simple, humanistic tone of the film. The RZA just doesnít belong in a film like this. This isnít a silly ninja chop-socky flick, it's a serious martial arts film.
And again, without fail, thereís a skippable Ďanti-piracyí spot at the beginning of the disc. This time they're asking you not to buy pirated movies. Come on Fox, we are the ones BUYING or renting the real discs! We arenít stealing them. Weíre the GOOD GUYS! We arenít downloading movies and weíre not buying bootleg movies, so stop telling us not to with your "cool, hip promo". It's bound to irritate consumers and make pirates laugh rather than feel guilty. I canít stress this enough!
Besides the horrendous RZA score and a lazy, overcooked plot, Ong-Bak is one helluva good ride, if you just watch the chases and fights. Otherwise, youíre in for one boring movie. I canít wait to see what Tony Jaa does next. He may be the next Jackie Chan...or something totally different all together.
RATED R for sequences of strong violence, language, some drug use and sexuality.
* Running Time: 105 minutes
* List Price: $27.98
* Available on DVD August 30th, 2005.
----R. L. Shaffer