HOME ABOUT SUPPORT US SITES WE LIKE FORUM Search Fanboyplanet.com | Powered by Freefind FANBOY PLANET
Now Showing Today's Date:

Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior


Prachya Pinkaew’s debut feature Ong-Bak is by no means brilliant, but damn if it isn’t entertaining throughout. Pinkaew’s film hits all of the requisite touchstones one expects from the action martial arts genre yet somehow manages to work despite the usual trappings. How you ask?

Two words: Tony Jaa.

Yes, the claims being touted that Jaa is the biggest thing to hit the martial arts scene since the sliced bread that was Bruce Lee are grandiose, but rest assured, he will amaze you.

The typical formula for action films such as Ong-Bak usually consists of a paper-thin plot that is constructed solely for the self-serving purpose of acting as a showcase for down and dirty action stunt sequences. Ong-Bak is certainly no different, but it does hold a few pleasant surprises that cause the film to rise above and beyond the rest of the crop on occasion.

For instance, when a Bangkok street thug named Don visits the peaceful religious village of Nong Pradu to persuade one of the locals to part with an antique religious artifact, we get a clear look at just how steadfast the locals are in their beliefs. There is no “right price” for such an artifact, which the local explains is intended to be handed down to his son once he is ordained.

This, of course, provokes Don, so he steals the head of the Buddhist statue of Ong-Bak, representing their local deity. Such thievery just happens to coincide with Boonting’s (Tony Jaa), Ting for short, completion of his Muay Thai training.

His trainer insists that he never use the fighting art form, and it is explained that he killed a man in his very first “ring match,” an act which prompted him to become an ordained monk. Everyone knows the drill, fight for good, and better yet, don’t fight at all. It almost bores along too far in Ong-Bak, except for those few saving graces mentioned earlier.

They come in small doses, but it’s enough to keep things fresh. First off, there is a scene depicting Ting’s departure from Nong Pradu. Don had moronically left his Bangkok address in case anyone had any second thoughts about parting with any valued artifacts, so naturally someone must be sent to retrieve the head of Ong-Bak. The village elects Ting and wishes him luck on his journey by giving what they can to aid in his quest. Their gifts are small yet sincere, a few coins here, a bill or two there, a ring passed down after the death of a loved one. To say that Nong Pradu is poor is an understatement, yet they give despite their own personal woes. It’s touching in a genuine sort of way, and the scene just narrowly evades the schmaltz factor it could have easily relished in.

At its core, Ong-Bak is a redemption tale, and again this is common amongst films of this ilk. The interesting spin on this particular redemption tale is that Ting is not the character in need of salvation. Before leaving Nong Pradu, Ting was asked to deliver a letter to a wayward son in Bangkok by the same local whom Don had badgered earlier. The man’s son is Hum Lae (Petchthai Wongkamlao), who left Nong Pradu to avoid life as a monk and instead became a grifter on the streets of the big city. Hum Lae now goes by George in order to fit in and leave his “hick” roots behind him. He runs scams with Muay Lek (Pumwaree Yodkamol), a schoolgirl who hustles to pay tuition.

Ting meets George who wants nothing to do with the quest until he realizes that Ting possesses a bag full of money. Usually there would be a scene involving the hero becoming forced to participate in fights against his will, or for the greater good of some other hapless victim. That scene comes in time, but the reveal of Ting’s abilities is far less forced, yet another one of those subtle touches mentioned earlier. After learning that George has stolen his money, Ting follows him to a local fight club and confronts him. George points to the betting booth when asked about the money, and Ting’s naiveté leads him into the middle of the ring, a gesture that indicates a challenge. Ting disposes of his opponent, the current reigning champion, in one single blow. This not only serves as a means of exposing his talents, it also costs the local crime boss Kum Tuan (Sukhaaw Phongwilai) a large sum of money in the process.

As the plot unwinds, we learn that Don is actually working for Kum Tuan, who is gathering up priceless religious artifacts in plans of smuggling them for an undisclosed reason. One would assume profit, but the plan is not clearly laid out and this turns out to be another plus. We know he’s bad, that will suffice. Kun Tuan wants Ting to fight for money, and Ong Bak is the key to making him do so. Anyone can see where this is headed, and it works out well enough even if it takes a bit of time to get where it’s going.

There are a few subplots so poorly developed that they need not be mentioned. Yet despite these trouble spots, the key reason anyone should even bother to see this film in the first place is to bear witness to Tony Jaa’s expert displays of Muay Thai form and prowess. Attempting to describe these sequences would do injustice to them, so there is little point in going there at all. The low-budget aesthetic only adds to the realistic feel of the rather unreal spectacle on screen. The grainy stock used by necessity, not choice, makes it feel like you may be watching something on par with a martial arts snuff film, even though it never really delves to such dark levels in content.

When you witness Jaa’s escape from a local street gang through a small market in Bangkok, you will be hard pressed to sit still in your seat. Each feat is replayed from different angles, not just for effect or to make it look cool, but to add perspective to what Jaa is actually accomplishing on screen. These sequences are seamless, and well worth the cost of admission for fans aching for a fix.


Mario Anima

Our Friends:

Official PayPal Seal

Copyrights and trademarks for existing entertainment (film, TV, comics, wrestling) properties are held by their respective owners and are used with permission or for promotional purposes of said properties. All other content ™ and © 2001, 2014 by Fanboy Planet™.
"The Fanboy Planet red planet logo is a trademark of Fanboy Planetâ„¢
If you want to quote us, let us know. We're media whores.
Movies | Comics | Wrestling | OnTV | Guest | Forums | About Us | Sites