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Movie Review: Ong-Bak - Muay Thai Warrior
Opus ^ | Jason Morehead

Posted on 03/27/2004 6:50:47 AM PST by Brian Mosely

The plot of "Ong-Bak" is about as simple as you can get, even for a martial arts film. The welfare of a remote Thai village is protected by the Ong-Bak, an ancient statue of Buddha. One night, a group of thugs come into the temple and take off the statue's head, and as a result, a curse descends on the village, "Temple Of Doom" style. Ting, an orphan who was raised in the temple, vows to find the head and return with it. And so, with just the clothes on his back and a handful of cash, this bumpkin sets off for the big city.

Thankfully, however, Ting also happens to be a master of the brutal art of Muay Thai kickboxing. Which, naturally, is going to come in very handy over the next 90 minutes or so for kicking epic proportions of ass.

When Ting arrives in the city, he hooks up with the estranged son of the village chief, a two-bit hustler whose name just so happens to be (I kid you not) Dirty Balls, and whose schemes (and name) provide much of the film's comic relief. Dirty Balls' partner in crime, a scrappy young girl with one of the shrillest voices in the world, also tags along, having taken a shine to the strong, silent villager.

Over the course of the movie, the trio mixes it up with drug dealers, archaeological thieves, gangsters, illegal boxing matches, and all other manner of underhanded types. Like I said, the movie's plot is about as simple and predictable as it gets, serving only to provide a little breathing space between the fight scenes. Of course, the fight scenes are the real reason why anyone watches martial arts movies (and anyone who tells you otherwise, myself included, is lying through their teeth), but that's triply so with "Ong-Bak".

At this point, I want you to pause and ask yourself how much cinematic ass-kicking you can handle. Now be honest. If your only experience comes from Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal movies, or worse yet, Don "The Dragon" Wilson movies, you're simply not ready for this one. Trust me.Those movies have the appearance of action, but it's all fancy editing and camera tricks. Go rent a few Bruce Lee movies and then come back when you're ready. If you've made it through early Jackie Chan and Jet Li movies, like "Drunken Master 2" and "Fist Of Legend", you're getting closer. But even then, you'll need to think long and hard before going into "Ong-Bak".

You see, once "Ong-Bak" gets going, it's brutal, plain and simple. Now, that word gets thrown around quite a bit when people are describing martial arts movies, but that's really the only way to describe "Ong-Bak" - BRUTAL. It's been a long time since a movie made me cringe this much, and when I wasn't doing that, I was picking my jaw up off the ground after witnesing the sheer physical brilliance on display throughout "Ong-Bak".

There are at least 6 amazing action sequences throughout the movie, all of them showcases for the stunning talents of Phanom Yeerum (aka Tony Ja), the stuntman-turned-actor who plays Ting. And as is the case with all of the greats, each one is crazier and more ballistic than the last.

When Ting is chased through the city by a bunch of thugs after getting caught up in one of Dirty Balls' lousy schemes, he leaps over cars, slides under SUVs, jumps through loops of barbed wire with nary a scratch, and (literally) runs across the tops of the gangsters heads. In another scene, Ting is pulled into an illegal boxing match (again, thanks to Dirty Balls - gosh I like typing that) and takes on three opponents, each one crazier than the last. And in the final match, Ting takes out his opponent by kicking him through a plate glass window, only to kick him again, "Double Dragon" style, on the way down.

The movie's final sequence, taking place in the villain's underground lair, takes the cake, however. Picture the final battle in "Drunken Master 2" on speed, steroids, and crystal meth all at once. Ting takes on 4 groups of opponents, his feet, fists, knees, and elbows in a whirlwind as he leaves his opponents with massive concussions, internal bleeding, and broken limbs.

There are times when I honestly don't know how they got away with some of the blows that Ting lands. It looks like he actually connects everytime, along with a sickening crunch, thud, or other wince-inducing sound effect. In one of the film's most mind-blowing stunts, he runs up a rockface, jumps off and over one guy, and slams a wooden board directly onto another guy's head - thonk - in super-painful slow mo.

Directed by Prachya Pinkaew (who spent 4 years bringing the film to screen), the film is quite slick and stylish in places. Pinkaew obviously borrows from Jackie Chan's films - some scenes lift directly from "Police Story" and "Rumble In The Bronx", to name a few. But he's also along the lines of Guy Ritchie (one scene in particular is reminiscent of "Snatch"'s famous boxing sequence - only far, far better), utilizing flashy camerawork, film speeds, and editing to make the film as attractive as possible. Except when it comes to the action sequences.

Just to make sure that you can get the full brunt of the stunts, the movie's flashiest blows are replayed from as many as 3 or 4 angles, just so you can really see how they did it. As impossible as it is to believe at times, no wires or CGI were used at all in the movie's fight scenes. In this day and age, where any beefcake can be turned into a gravity-defying, death-dealing kung fu master with wire tricks, it's a rush to see the real deal once again. If you thought these sorts of mind-blowing acrobatics could exist only in "The Matrix", then "Ong-Bak" is bound to be an awe-inspiring eye-opener.

KEYWORDS: moviereview
I usually don't post stuff like this, but I got the Region 0 DVD of this last week, and this reviewer nails it on every single point. I had first heard of this movie from reports over at about the film's screening at the Toronto International Film Festival last year and got interested. Needless to say, this guy is going to blow some minds when this gets released over here. Luc Besson has picked it up for international distrubution. It will open in France in a couple of weeks and in the states later this year. Check out the French site here and take a gander at the trailer and the making-of video for a taste of what I'm talking about.
1 posted on 03/27/2004 6:50:47 AM PST by Brian Mosely
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To: Brian Mosely
I can't think who, from Hollywood, would shine most brightly as Mr. D. Balls. Which is to say, there are so many candidates, it is difficult to narrow the list.
2 posted on 03/27/2004 8:36:06 AM PST by T'wit (Liberals are always wrong, even when they come down on both sides of the issue.)
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To: T'wit

Oh, I don't know...Mum Jok Mok does such a great job...and looks the part too.
3 posted on 03/27/2004 8:59:45 AM PST by Brian Mosely
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To: Brian Mosely
I'm trying to remember the name of the Muay Thai Master that Jean Claude Van Damme fought in "Kick Boxer" This guy was good.
4 posted on 03/27/2004 1:48:04 PM PST by Kherghan (Who Would Osama Vote For?)
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To: Brian Mosely

Magnolia Gets Thai Action Hit "Ong-Bak: Thai Warrior"

by Eugene Hernandez

Magnolia Pictures has nabbed Prachya Pinkaew's "Ong-Bak: Thai Warrior." The film, acquired and re-cut by Luc Besson's EuropaCorp after its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, stars Thai martial artist Tony Jaa. The movie was a hit in France, where EuropaCorp earned nearly a million with its release of the movie.

"I have seen the future of the action film and his name is Tony Jaa," said Magnolia's Eamonn Bowles in a statement yesterday. "'Ong-Bak' contains some of the most jaw-dropping sequences ever committed to film -- no strings attached."

"Ong-Bak" refers to a Buddha statue kept in a rural Thai temple. Local villagers believe that the statue has magical powers that protect them. When the head of the Ong-Bak is stolen, villager Ting (played by Jaa) must travel to Bangkok to win it back. A sequel to the film is in the works and Jaa is also working with the same team that made "Ong-Bak" to shoot his new movie, "Tom-Yum-Goong."

Magnolia's Bowles and Tom Quinn negotiated the deal with Pierre-Ange Le Pogam and Gregoire Melin of EuropaCorp. The company plans a wide release in November.

"Control Room" and "Bukowski: Born Into This" are currently in release from Magnolia. The company will release another Thai film, the epic "Bang Rajan," in August.

5 posted on 06/04/2004 2:42:40 PM PDT by Brian Mosely
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To: Brian Mosely

Thai 'Warrior' Set to Kick Up Storm at Box Office
Wed Jun 9, 2004 04:12 AM ET

By Ian Mohr

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - "But what I really liked is 'Ong-Bak: Thai Warrior,"' a New York indie executive guiltily exclaimed at an upscale private dinner for another film at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall.

As the wine flowed, lips began to loosen about what films were making an impact North of the Border.

But the honcho's eyes -- which lit up while recounting the blow-by-blow, kick-ass antics of "Warrior" star Tony Jaa in the Midnight Madness movie -- then looked away, across a dining room of rarefied guests.

"I guess we all have different tastes," he added, lamenting that his arty staff lacked any of his blood lust for the film.

"Warrior," directed by Prachya Pinkaew, follows a statue in a temple in rural Thailand that locals believe is imbued with magical powers. When it is stolen, Jaa heads to Bangkok's underground fight clubs to win it back.

Last week, New York-based Magnolia Pictures kicked up a deal to acquire "Warrior," with plans for a wide release in November.

But much like the statue Ong-Bak of the film's full title, the movie itself has taken a journey of twists and turns to U.S. screens, with a bevy of distributors duking it out to bring Jaa to American audiences.

At last September's Toronto fest, even diehards felt the movie -- though a major buzz title -- needed serious cuts.

Luc Besson agreed. The French helmer's production company snapped up "Warrior" in a multiterritory deal just before the film debuted at Toronto, and Besson pulled the picture off the table, recut it and added new music for a French rollout, which has so far brought in about 1 million admissions.

"When I saw the film, I sat there slack-jawed," says Eamonn Bowles, the head of Magnolia Pictures. "I could not believe what (Jaa) was doing."

"Warrior" is special effects-free fare, unlike, say, Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," which ushered in an era of graceful, high-wire kung fu that has swiftly crept into such mainstream Hollywood blockbusters as the "Matrix" and "Charlie's Angels" franchises.

Magnolia lobbied for four months to buy the movie, ultimately beating the competition, including a major studio, by taking an alternate view of its Stateside release.

"A lot of people were primarily talking about video as the (film's) main thrust," says Bowles, who plans on using Magnolia principal Mark Cuban's connections, including his NBA ties, to promote the film. "But we see the communal energy of the screenings as really making it soar theatrically."

"Warrior" also represents Magnolia moving into bigger pictures. "We are always going to be an opportunity-based company," Bowles says. "This opportunity came with a higher price tag. But it is still a very prudent investment. We did not go out on a limb with this film."

Jaa is almost certain to be a smash with action dorks, who have been flooding chatrooms with sophomoric superlatives for "Warrior." ("This was one of the best film experiences of my life," says an Ain't It Cool News blogger. "We are talking religious here. That movie turned an entire audience into screaming primates.")

Jaa is already grabbing more mainstream fans by the throat, including helmer Brett Ratner and action icon Jet Li. Now if "Warrior" can only cross over and get that upscale dinner crowd going ape.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

6 posted on 06/09/2004 4:58:53 AM PDT by Brian Mosely
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To: Brian Mosely

Ong Bak bump

7 posted on 07/24/2004 6:19:14 AM PDT by Brian Mosely (A government is a body of people -- usually notably ungoverned)
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To: Brian Mosely

Phenomenal movie, he's an unbelievable martial artist. Some of the finest fight scenes I've seen, and a good storyline, too. My friend lent me his VCD copy and I watched it on my computer, I'll definitely go see it on the big screen!

8 posted on 09/28/2004 4:25:36 PM PDT by Former Dodger ((Go W GO! Finish off the US Rats, then the Muslim ones!))
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To: Brian Mosely

I don't know about ong bak, but I love ong choi.

9 posted on 03/10/2005 2:05:07 PM PST by nickcarraway
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