March 4, 2006 -- “Ong-Bak” (also known by its international title Ong-Bak Muay Thai Warrior) is a martial arts action movie with some really amazing stunts in it. While many martial arts movies rely on wires, computer graphics or various camera tricks to pump up the action, this one is all natural. The film's remarkably acrobatic star, Tony Jaa, does all of his own stunts, just like Jackie Chan does, and they are spectacular stunts indeed.
This film has a minimal plot loaded with stunts, chase scenes and fight sequences, equalling the best of the Hong Kong martial arts films. Much of the power of this film comes from Jaa, whose incredible acrobatics are reminiscent of Jackie Chan's famous skills. The chase scenes and fight scenes are brilliantly choreographed. One scene has a man bouncing off a series of platforms while men are swinging sticks at him, just barely missing him as he does somersaults in the air.
The basic plot is simple, a crook from Bangkok steals the Ong Bak Buddha head from Nong Pra-du temple in small village in Thailand. The villagers need the money they get from the annual pilgrimage to the temple, and they believe the statue is good luck. The villagers pool their money and send their best warrior, Ting (Jaa) to the city to retrieve the head. Ting has been schooled by local monks in the ancient martial art of Muay Thai (“Nine Body Weapons”). In Bangkok, he is confronted by a powerful criminal gang and must defeat them one by one to retrieve the head. The warrior also fights in some organized kick boxing matches.
Others who help Ting include George (Petchthai Wongkamlao) a Bangkok hustler who originally came from Ting's village. Through Ting, George begins to remember his village roots, and joins Ting on his quest. Muay Lek (Pumwaree Yodkamol) is a street wise teen who is a friend of George. She helps to take care of her elder sister, Ngek (Rungrawee Borrijindakul). The story is fairly routine for a martial arts movie, but the action is way above average. The martial arts involved are Thailand-based and look different than the style of martial arts made famous in Chinese films.
The fight sequences in the film were choreographed by Jaa and his mentor, Prachya Pinkaew (who is also a film director and martial arts action star). The two recruited and trained their own stunt crew for the film. The fights in the film are designed to showcase classical Muay Thai martial arts movements. This martial arts style is distinctive and noticeably different from Kung Fu and other Chinese and Japanese martial arts traditions popularized in films as diverse as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “The Karate Kid.” This film rates a B.
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