Ong Bak Reviews
Toronto Film Festival: 2003
“…it's not every year that you get an action
treat like Ong-Bak.”
People generally attend the film festival with the implicit goal
of seeing something with intellectual or artistic heft. But it's
not every year that you get an action treat like Ong-Bak. This
kinetic Thai feature stars Tony Jaa, an explosive (not to mention
abnormally supple) martial artist who makes Jackie Chan seem staid
by comparison. The plot—something about a stolen Buddha relic—is
simply a pretext for Jaa to unleash his astounding chopsocky arsenal.—A.M.
“...the star...Tony Jaa, is already looking like the
next Jackie Chan or Jet Li.”
Other films on Geddes' list of hot picks include Ong-Bak,
which he admits has a simple, predictable plot, but is well worth
venturing out at midnight because the star, a 24-year-old former
Thai stunt man named Tony Jaa, is already looking like the next Jackie
Chan or Jet Li.
"The thing in stunts now is to use wires and lifts, but this
kid doesn't rely on any of that," says Geddes, playing a short
clip from Ong-Bak on his laptop in which Jaa, while being
chased, hurdles through a tight circle of spiky barbed wire in one
effortless bound. In another clip, he leaps over two moving bikes.
In yet another scene, he launches himself directly over the heads
of a group of chatting schoolchildren, and they don't even notice.
French director Luc Besson has already put the stamp of approval
on Ong-Bak by purchasing the world-wide rights for the film.
Besson is currently producing the film's sequel, starring Jaa, in
Thailand, but rumour has it he'll attend the midnight madness screening
New York Times
“…audiences may need bananas to restore potassium
after just sitting through the movie.”
An action film that works far more consistently is the Thai martial
arts marathon "Ong-Bak," directed by Prachya Pinkaew. Tony
Jaa, a stuntman turned actor in his first starring role, assaults
the screen, and what seems like the entire adult male population
of Thailand, with such unnervingly exuberant Thai martial arts technique
that audiences may need bananas to restore potassium after just sitting
through the movie.
He plays Ting, a young disciple who is sent to Bangkok to locate
a head “Ong-Bak” stolen from his village's Buddha, a
crime that will loose calamitous luck if not redressed. He has to
do so without being impeded by George, a former village resident
who now thinks of himself as a gambler and player; he has been corrupted
by the city, with its skyscrapers and everything.
After a prologue corny enough to be banned from the Atkins diet,
Mr. Jaa hurls himself through "Ong-Bay" with an expenditure
of breathtakingly realized physicality that Gower Champion would
love, especially if he were choreographing action sequences. A foot
chase through the streets of Bangkok allowed Mr. Jaa to display a
physical wit and gymnastic panache that drove a late-night audience
to applause for the first of many times.
Armed only with a haircut that suggests he has spent too much time
watching Don (the Dragon) Wilson, Ting battles a crime lord's impressive
numbers with a healthy, awe-inspiring talent for violence and without
the use of wire-assisted special effects that even martial acrobats
like Jackie Chan and Jet Li demand. The pursuit scene featured Mr.
Jaa running on the shoulders of a crowd that both reminds you of
the "Once Upon a Time in China" films and surpasses them.
Seeing the fit, constantly moving star leap, slap and punch his
way through the film introduced something moviegoers don't often
experience: fear for the safety of the protagonist. And the film
received the kind of final approval stage shows crammed with showstopping
numbers usually garner: the crowd was too intoxicated by its star's
efforts to want to leave the theater, even at 2:30 a.m.
Ain’t It Cool.com
“...Tony Jaa, the 25-year-old weapon of mass destruction
who stars in Ong-Bak, is the new Bruce
Lee...You have to see this film. This is the must-see film of the
Ong-Bak kicks the living shit out of every martial arts
movie made in the last ten years. Every. Single. One. This thing
makes Iron Monkey look like god-damned Gymkata. Fuck! A coherent
review is impossible right now. I'll try, but it's probably just
going to devolve into "And then he... with the... and then the
guy... holy shit! With his legs on fucking fire!!!"
Plot-wise the film is essentially a Buddhist version of Drunken
Master II -- a thug (played by the Thai Adrian Zmed) steals
the head of his home village's Buddha, and local orphan boy Ting
sets off to Bangkok to retrieve it. Ting, having been trained at
the temple in Muay Thai fighting (and given the strict admonition
never to use it, of course, it being fucking ass-brutalizingly
lethal and all), proceeds to beat the holy living sweet merciful
fuck out of a local boss and his gang, the toughs at the illegal
street fighting joint run by Zmed's boss, Zmed, the rest of the
boss' hoods, and the hand-picked Burmese boxer who is Zmed's boss'
enforcer in the climactic fight that just annihilates the fuck
out of any other climactic fight scene in any other martial arts
movie ever. I'm not kidding. To me the gold standard for climactic
fights scenes was the aforementioned Drunken Master II.
After the hellacious way Ting and the Burmese boxer fuck each other
up over the course of this fight DM II looks nearly quaint in comparison.
Burning coals and industrial alcohol suddenly don't quite measure
up when multiple adrenaline injections directly below the heart
and skull-fracturing elbows come into play.
Speaking of obsolescence, I hope Jet Li has made some wise investments.
Tony Jaa, the 25-year-old weapon of mass destruction who stars in Ong-Bak,
is the new Bruce Lee.
Let me say that again, in case you thought I was off my head or
exaggerating or something you know the one, all the legends have
it. That sequence in the club where Ting wipes the floor with the
hand-picked champs, finishing off with the punk-wannabe bad-ass who
even makes the ring announcer recoil in fear and horror when he steps
up... or the blow that finally takes out Zmed... this guy has it.
HE HAS IT.
I can't overlook the direction here either. Prachya Pinkaew does
a great job keeping the action flowing while highlighting Jaa's jaw-dropping
moves and just generally rocks that shit hard. This guy has a future
too, and Luc Besson (who snatched up the distribution rights for
this baby at Cannes) made a very wise investment in establishing
a working relationship with Pinkaew early in his career.
Ong-Bak is quite possibly the best film that has ever been
shown at Toronto's Midnight Madness. The only thing that could possibly
be in the ballpark is Dead-Alive back in '92. Sure, the
plot's thin and some of the secondary performances weak, but this
isn't fucking Mamet. I made this prediction last night, and I stand
by it -- slap Jaa's dreamboat mug on a poster and keep the ad campaign
simple, building it around his fighting style and teasing folks with
just how fucking much ass gets kicked in the film, and Ong-Bak could
do Blair Witch numbers. This puppy might need a little word
of mouth, but a nine digit domestic box office is within reach here.
You have to see this film. This is the must-see film of the year. Every
card-carrying geek who's ever plunked down their coin for a piece of
dung like the Tuxedo just to catch those few moments of Jackie genius
that he still doles out now and then; every one of us who stops flipping
the remote when a Green Hornet rerun is on; every one of us who's ever
come out of a film sparring with your buddies -- this is the one you
have to see.