Tony Jaa knows how to jump over, around and through environmental objects. He knows how to punch, kick and spin with both power and speed. And he definitely knows how to deliver airborne knees to the head and crushing elbows to the cranium. What eludes the agile martial artist, however, is how to act, a shortcoming compounded, in the case of Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior, by the fact that Prachya Pinkaew’s replay-heavy direction is generally as inept as his star’s emotive skills. Boasting the flimsiest of narratives – Jaa’s country boy heads to Bangkok to retrieve the head of a deity statue stolen by underworld criminals – the film is really just a showcase for Jaa’s athletic abilities, and to be fair, they’re quite impressive, whether he’s leaping between golf cart-style taxis or felling larger opponents in Lionheart-type battles to the death. Unfortunately, much of Ong-Bak’s action – despite its lack of computer or wire-aided effects – feels over-choreographed, even during the entertainingly hectic middle section during which most plot-related concerns take a back seat to remarkable physical acrobatics. Book-ending such adrenalized excitement is a thoroughly creaky intro and a finale that fails to match the preceding mayhem, with Jaa’s Muay Thai fighting skills regularly showing more personality than his blank face, and much-needed humor coming only via a villain who, during the climactic showdown, doesn’t know when to say when regarding steroid use.
I watched it right after Kung Fu Hustle, and that made it seem even worse.
From the falling statue to the innocent guy getting dragged into a fight to the unconditional love for a douchebag relative (what is this, Twins?), it just seemed like the most trite shit in the world.
With great ass-kicking and the gimmick that it's Thai.
Posted by: josephgrossberg | August 24, 2006 at 01:34 PM
Well, I certainly didn't think the movie had any lasting value, but in terms of (completely) mindless fun I'll admit there have been better examples in my book these past few years. I'll probably be less enthusiastic about it over time as I become more familiar with the genre, but it was one of those rare cases where I found myself able to actually relax while watching a movie. I am, however, eagerly awaiting District B13's release on DVD.
Posted by: Robert Humanick | August 24, 2006 at 08:50 PM
Well, it's certainly not a mentally taxing film. But between the somewhat lousy direction, Jaa's near-total lack of personality, and the fact that the martial arts were more technically impressive than inventive (unlike the unique District B13), I just found it sorta blah. Not the worst way to spend an afternoon, but far from what I'd hoped it would be.
And great Twins reference, Facce.
Posted by: Nick | August 24, 2006 at 11:46 PM
Yeah, it was over a year ago (almost two, come to think of it), so there's not a whole lot of details I can recall. My mind is not unlike Ebert's summary: runs, kicks, runs, breaks chairs, golf carts, karate chop...
It's amusing: a person whom I detest (and that takes a lot, mind you) has claimed that this movie "enlightened" them; it made them *think*. Huh? What idiots have their mind so full of cotton?
Posted by: Robert Humanick | August 25, 2006 at 01:11 AM
This movie is a MUST WATCH!
The fighting scenes are like what you've never seen before. After watching this, any other fighting movie seems lousy
Posted by: BJJ | July 17, 2009 at 05:29 AM