ONG-BAK: THE THAI WARRIOR
Review by Gordon Justesen
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Audio: Thai Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 105 Minutes
Release Date: August 30, 2005
DOES HE DO THAT?!Ē
***1/2 (On the Action Scale)
I recently read
where Jackie Chan has considered himself becoming way too old to make the
martial arts movies he was renowned for. For one thing, I certainly hope Jackie
gets around to completing the promised Rush
Hour 3, but if he soon considers retiring, there is a young martial artist
to step in his shoes. His name is Tony Jaa.
The Thai Warrior is the kind
of movie Chan wouldíve made back in the mid 70s or early 80s. Itís a
classically structured martial arts movie that contains close to no plot and
lots of wall-to-wall action. The main attraction here is Tony Jaa, who is the
real deal the same way Jackie Chan was at the beginning of his career.
Jaa does all of his
own stunts. The main marketing ploy was getting across that there were no CGI
tricks or wirework in the stunts of the movie. Though the action is frenetically
choreographed, thatís Jaa risking his neck in all the fight scenes. After
watching the movie, I found myself wondering how exactly he made it out of this
movie alive. And this is only his first movie!
I must admit, I was
scratching my head during the opening segments of Ong-Bak. The movie begins with a lengthy sequence where a bunch of
men climb a tall tree, attempting to retrieve a red flag. Itís a competition,
and the object is to shove every opponent off the limbs and grab hold of the
prize at the top of the tree.
I was wondering how
in the world this would connect to the plot of the movie that I had already been
informed of, but in a movie like this I should no that excessive thinking
isnít even a requirement. The central plot involves a young martial artist
named Ting (Jaa), who resides in a peaceful village. But then, the sacred
statuette known as Ong-bak is stolen from the village, and Ting volunteers to
retrieve it and bring it back to safety.
That bit of plot
setup is THE only bit of plot the movie seems to offer. The rest of the movie
consists of how Ting gets from one fight sequence to the next. His quest for
Ong-bak takes him to the streets of Bangkok, where he comes across a band of
vicious individuals who are obviously somehow connected to the higher power who
has taken the statue.
Ting finds himself
in a fighting ring, on more than one occasion, where spectators bet on fights.
He manages to take out the most deadly of opponents, much to the spectatorsí
surprise. He also leads a gang on a mind blowing foot chase through the streets
of downtown Bangkok. In this sequence, Jaa does every jaw-dropping acrobatic
stunt imaginable, including running on top of market stalls and peopleís
heads, as well as sliding underneath a truck, which had me gasping big time!
sequence is a chase scene involving three-wheeled scooters, featuring one of the
funniest explosions Iíve seen in any movie (and I donít mean that in a bad
way). It also adds in a touch of comedy, as Tingís accomplice, George (Petchtai
Wongkamlao), gets frequently hurt in all the action as Ting escapes the worst of
injury. It makes sense that Wongkamlao is one of Thailandís most popular
comedians, because he fits this sidekick role with pure flawlessness.
After watching this
movie, I must say that Tony Jaa has impressed me perhaps more than anybody else
after a debut, certainly in a physical action movie, and I am most eager to see
what films he follows up with in the future. Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior is a grand showcase of a fresh action star
who I think will go so far as to achieve worldwide acclaim.
Fox delivers this
high-flying action pic in pure visual glory with this outstanding looking disc.
The anamorphic picture is immensely clear and detailed right from the opening
scene. A lot of the sets have a lot of color to them, which is something the
presentation takes great advantage of. Day and night shots are both terrifically
handled. The overall detail is more than impressive.
You have the option
of watching the movie in either Thai or English. The only downside to the latter
of the two, other than the possibly bad dubbing, is that itís only in a 2.0
mix. The Thai track is in 5.1, and it really delivers the audio goods. The
action sequences are laced with such fury that you will come close to feeling
the kicks and punches bursts through the speakers. The techno/hip hop soundtrack
also provides frequent sound highlights.
While not the high
level of extras, the disc does justice in focusing mainly on star Tony Jaa.
Included is a Music Video featuring Tony Jaa, plus the Making of the Music
Video, ďThe 8 Movements of Muay ThaiĒ, some behind-the-scenes stunt footage,
a Tony Jaa Performance at the French Screening of the movie, plus a
performance at an NBA Game, a Promotional Video Featuring The RZA, a
Trailer featuring The RZA, and Additional Trailers.
canít express what you will see when you witness Tony Jaa in motion. Ong-Bak:
The Thai Warrior is a pure action stunner, and a knockout introduction to
cinemaís new Jackie Chan!