Thursday, November 23, 2006

When Feet Meet Face: Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior


I love kung-fu movies.

Seriously.

I can watch Jackie Chan jump from building to building any old day. When Jet Li puts his fist through someone's head, I get giddy.

I've even watched a few Stephen Segal films, though I'd rather not admit that ever again.

So when a new player enters the scene talking all sorts of smack about "no strings" and all that jazz, I get a little excited.

"Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior" does not disappoint.

Now, I should preface this review with a simple qualifier: I enjoy dumb action movies (let's not forget Mr. Segal....actually, let's go ahead and forget him).

I've seen Jean Claude Van Dam in every dude-on-a-quest movie he's made (about 5,793 so far).

I've watched Jackie Chan's "First Strike" about twenty times just for that ladder scene.

So I don't mind when an action film has no plot.

I mean none.

And "Ong-Bak" is sans plot.

If you want to get technical, there is this small story about a small-time gang member stealing the head of a village's idol prompting a super kung-fu master (mu-thai-boxing to be precise) to go and take on every bag of scum the nearby city can throw at him.

Oh yeah, it's that good.

Tony Jaa, the flying sensation of Thailand, brings something new to the martial arts table that I had only heard of: Thai boxing.

The Thai people, for those of you who don't know, were once a humble and peaceful nation. When a Chinese man came to their country bearing the cracking limbs of Karate, they smiled, gave him fruit, and let him go on his way.

Then they took fifteen minutes and created the messiest martial art ever.

Thai kick boxing looks like it hurts, and it does. It hurts your EVERYTHING.

Knees go into places where knees have never been, bones are snapped, feet meet chins in a most unpoetic fashion...it's basically the worst parts of the bible.

Let's carry on, shall we?

Ting (Tony Jaa) heads into town following the diabolical theft of his beloved Buddha head. He meets up with Humlae (Petchtai Wongkamlao...don't worry about IMDB on this one, you won't recognize him at all) and his...girlfriend? Sister? It's never really explained, but this girl (Pumwaree Yodkamol) has the most annoying voice I have ever heard.

It's not long before Ting is put into a situation where he has to use his village's chief export--pain--to stay alive.

Humlae steals Ting's money, money that was going to be used to by back the Lord's noggin', and bets it on a fight. When he loses, Ting sets out to get his money back by asking politely.

The MC obliges....but only if Ting can survive some FISTICUFFS!

What follows is the shortest bout of awesome you can imagine. Tony Jaa uses his leg as a sledgehammer and drops the other man like a sack of potatoes.

And then the movie happens.

Stunt men, it is said, are a dime a dozen. I feel the director of this movie understood that concept and exploited it. At least 412 people died as a direct result of the fighting in this film.

At least.

In one scene, Ting grabs two thick, metal rods and proceeds to beat the ever-loving piss out of every bad person left in Thailand. The impacts are so visceral that it hurts in your gut to watch.

Not that you'd ever turn it off, because it's awesome.

The main villain is a chain-smoking, wheelchair-bound gangster with a voice-box and a bad-luck streak. You hate this man the moment you see him. I recommend watching the movie in its original Thai, not just because that language is pretty awesome sounding, but because this guy is ten times worse in his primary form. The dubbing just doesn't cut it.

By the end of this movie, which arrives much sooner than you'd expect, you'll feel pretty spent. Since there really is no story to speak of, the ending is sort of bittersweet. You don't care for any of the characters any further than you don't want to see people in pain anymore.

Still, it has been a fun ride.

I hope that this movie launches a bountiful career for young Tony Jaa, as his antics are quite amusing to watch.

"The Protector", his latest endeavor, is supposed to be rather enjoyable. I'll have to check it out soon.

I'd give this movie a different kind of review than others. This movie is an embodiment of the old-timey saying:

"People have faces, and Tony Jaa has to kick them."

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

I have to go eat myself into a coma.

1 comment:

sarah said...

you have a typo...."buy" not "by"...find it.

also, I would like to mention how this movie strays so far from the notion of even having a plot that when they introduce any young female that may at one point blossom into a love interest, it's dropped within two minutes, when the next fight scene starts.

word.