July 19, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Geek Review: Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior


Martial arts master Tony Jaa is out to bring the head of the Ong-Bak statue back to his village in this Thai action film.

I’ve come to appreciate the YouTube channel CineFix.  They have a number of top ten lists that aren’t the standard choice of many channels where a top ten movie list often seems to made entirely of fairly recent movies with one tip of the hat to an obvious classic.  CineFix often makes lists where many of the movies are foreign films, older films, lesser known films, and so forth. The scene analysis that goes with each entry is also rather impressive.  As it is, I discovered a movie called Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior had actually made two of their lists, one for best chases, and one for best fights.

Then I discovered it was free to watch with Amazon Prime.  How was it?

It was fun.

Ong-Bak tells the story of Ting.  He’s a young man about to become ordained as a Buddhist monk in the small village of Nong Pradu.  A sleazy guy named Don who believes he can have anything for the right price…wow, that sounds familiar…is denied a Buddhist amulet, so he steals the head of the Buddhist statue Ong-Bak instead and takes it back to Bangkok.  The village falls to despair, so Ting volunteers to bring the head back before the festival when he will receive his robes takes place.  The festival is due in about seven days and only takes place every 24 years.  A former villager turned con man and the young girl the con man takes care of are Ting’s only allies in the big city.  Once in the city, Ting must use his knowledge of the Muay Thai martial art again and again to retrieve the head from a criminal smuggling organization.

As films go, this isn’t much of a movie.  No one is going to confuse this for an art film with high quality acting or much of a plot.  But let’s face it:  no one is going to watch this movie for that stuff.  People watch it for the martial arts, and that’s where the movie excels.  Actor Tony Jaa really is a Muay Thai master (he’s also apparently a Buddhist monk according to Wikipedia).  The style requires a lot of knee and elbow action, and the fight choreography is fantastic.  And like Jackie Chan, Jaa does all his own stunts without the use of wires.  And while Chan’s style might be closer to slapstick comedy, Jaa’s movements are pure grace and agility.  And in case you miss something, the director wasn’t above replaying some of the more impressive moves two or three times from different angles.

All things being equal, this is a fun film for folks with an interest in martial arts movies.  I’m giving it nine out of ten taxi chases.

Yes, amidst all the fighting, they have time for a fantastic Thai taxi chase.