No stunt doubles, no computer images, no strings attached.
In this Thai martial arts movie, Tony Jaa plays a kickboxing country bumpkin nominated by his village elders to retrieve the head of a stolen sacred Buddhist statue. His search leads him to a grimey, scum-filled city where he spends the remainder of the movie battling his way through an unending army of villains.
Ong Bak follows in the tradition of many of the great kung-fu movies, where the story serves only as a flimsy pretext for a lot of great fight scenes. Ong Bak has plenty of these, and they're amongst the best I've seen. There are no special effects in Ong Bak, only crazy stuntmen willing to risk life and limb for entertainment. The star of the show, Tony Jaa, is a revelation. Early on in the movie, he casually leaps off a huge tree like it was nothing. Later on, he dives headfirst through a small loop of razor-sharp barbed wire, and in another sequence, he performs a 720 degree spinning kick whilst his legs are on fire.
There is minimum of exposition, character development and dialogue. In a film like this, the action does the talking. Normally, that wouldn't warrant a recommendation but trust me: these chases and fights are spectacular. The blazing pace, ruthless efficiency and brutal directness of Jaa's brand of Muay Thai kickboxing produces a verve far far greater than the bullet-time antics of The Matrix or the wire-work of Hero. Bones and bodies are smashed, cracked and mangled in a satisfying and straight-to-the-point manner. Its the kind of inspiring adrenalin rush that will have you searching for a Muay Thai instructor in your local Yellow Pages when the film is over! There is a raw and primal quality to the action; it's electrifying.
Tony Jaa plays the "strong but silent" hero on just the right note. The supporting cast serve their purpose well too (one notable performance is Jaa's chubby sidekick, who offers a contrast to the violence with slapstick humour). The direction, by Prachya Pinkaew, is efficient if a little conventional and the cinematography is gritty and rugged, perfectly suited to Ong Bak's grim mood.
Ong Bak is a must-see for all action movie fans. An instant classic.
Screenings of this film:
|2005/2006 Autumn Term - 19:30 Tuesday 22nd November 2005|