Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior (2003)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Martial Arts  |   Release Date - Feb 11, 2005 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - Thailand  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Tom Vick

Ong-Bak Muay Thai Warrior is pure, grade-A corny fun. Strictly following the martial arts film playbook, director Prachya Pinkaew uses a paper-thin, utterly predictable plot to set up a string of fights and chase scenes designed to show off the considerable talents of his energetic star, Tony Jaa. These include a footrace through the streets of Bangkok during which he leaps over cars, slips between two planes of glass, and dives through a coil of barbed wire two guys just happen to be loading onto a truck. His opponents at the fight club, each one more menacing than the last, are like comic book monsters made flesh. And of course, there's a merciless villain behind it all who must be vanquished in a final showdown. All of this is accomplished with sufficient flair, though Pinkaew's habit of showing Yeerum's more awesome stunts three times each becomes, well, repetitious, and saps some of the energy from the action scenes. The film is, after all, a bid to catapult Jaa into the ranks of international action stars like Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Tony uses an indigenously Thai martial art form that, in the movie at least, involves a lot of leaping and flying elbows. In one memorable scene, it also includes jumping off a tall platform, knees first, into a prone bad guy. Impressively, he does it all without wires or digital effects. A perfect, if formulaic, showcase for its star's skills, this film delivers exactly what it promises.