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Ong-Bak
Thai Warrior / Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior

Thailand 2003
produced by
Prachya Pinkaew, Sukanya Vongsthapat, Somsat Vongsthapat for Baa-Ram-Ewe, Sahamongkolfilm
directed by Prachya Pinkaew
starring Tony Jaa, Petchtai Wongkamlao (= Perttary Wongkamlao), Pumwaree Yodkamol, Suchao Pongwilai, Wannakit Sirioput, Chumporn Teppita, Chatthanpong Pantanaunkul, Chatewut Watcharakhun, Rungrawee Barijindakul, Nudhapol Asavabhakhin, Sawang Rodnuch, Sutin Rodnuch, David Ismalone, Erik Markus Schuetz, Nick Kara
story by Prachya Pinkaew, Panna Rittikrai, screenplay by Suphachai Sittiaumponpan

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Ting (Tony Jaa) is the best fighter of his little village, so it's only natural that, when the head of the local Buddha statue (called Ong-Bak) is stolen, he is sent to Bangkok to retrieve it

In Bangkok he meets up with Dirty Balls (Petchtai Wongkamlao), who formerly lived in the little village as well, but has since become a loveable but crooked gambler who doesn't want to have anything to do with his erstwhile village. However, when he gets a glimpse of Ting's money, he decides to let the country bumbkin stay in his appartment, but in an unattended moment he takes possession of Ting's money to use it for betting in a Thai-boxing match ... & losing everything. However, Ting has followed Dirty Balls & demands his money back ... instead he finds himself in the ring wth the reigning Thai boxing chamion, whom he puts out cold with one blow. Everyone is impressed, including the Don (Wannakit Sirioput) responsible for having stolen  the Ong-Bak Buddha head, & Dirty Balls changes his opinion about the naive country boy, seeing in him a great asset.

But Ting is not defeating all of the Don's fighters inside the ring with great regularity, he also, after an exciting rickshaw-chase, finds the hiding place of the Don's stolen Buddhas (he seems to have made a business of stealing Buddhas), which curiously enough is under water. & after the police has retrieved all the Buddhas (except for the Ong-Bak Buddha head), the Don is really miffed & has Dirty Balls & his girl kidnapped, to force Ting to face the ultimate challenge in the ring, Dopn's own souped up, drugged Thai fighter ... & here, Ting loses miserably.

For some reason though, Ting still believes Don will give him the Ong-Bak head only because he has promised, 6 walks straight into a trap set to murder Ting, Dirty Balls & Dirty Balls' girl. Only Ting's superior fighting skills get the threesome out of this tight spot, & then it's off to a cave in the mountains, where Don is supervising the beheading of yet another, giant Buddha statue. & this place is well guarded, but for Ting & Dirty Balls (who has now become Ting's loyal ally) it's an easy thing to beat them up by the dozen, & even when Don sends in his souped up superfighter who has humiliated Ting in the ring, is for some reason no match for Ting anymore. & in the end, Don is smashed - quite fittingly - by the head of the giant Buddha he so longed to have.

Ting though has finally repossessed the Ong-Bak head, but this also means that Dirty Balls had to die the hero's death (quite expectedly) ... nobody of course poses the question (let alone answers it) if it was worth his death.

 

Great fight choreography & the occasional inspired action scene (especially the extended rikshaw-chase) cannot hide the fact that the scriptis very pedestrian, not only for cheesily pitting the resourceful rural innocence against the corrupted sinful urbanites, but also its insistence to do so in the fighting ring, as if this was the only place for a man to prove himself (in that respect, Ong-Bak is very reminiscent of any number of abysmal Jean-Claude Van Damme movies), while the righteousness of the main character borders the ridiculous, & the overemphasis on Buddha-heads seems almost bizarre (& I don't think this is just my ignorance of Eastern culture).

Still, a fast pace & competently handled action do prevent the film from being a total failure.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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written by
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