Tony Jaa, Petchtai Wongkamlao, Pumwaree Yodkamol and Suchao Pongwilai

Prachya Pinkaew

Running Time:
105 mins

  • Jaa is an action hero for the 21st century
  • Amazing fight scenes
  • Muay Thai is a welcome addition to martial arts movies.

When the head of Ong-Bak, the sacred Buddha of a poor village is stolen, the people are plunged into famine. Ting (Tony Jaa) is selected by the villagers to travel to Bangkok and retrieve the relic. Ting has an affinity with the statue as he was left on the temple steps as a baby and raised by monks, who taught him muay Thai, but forbid him to use it in combat. Now the time has come for Ting to use these skills to do whatever's necessary.

A movie that comes with the kind of hype accompanying this one is either fully justified or a huge disappointment, Ong-Bak falls squarely in the middle.

The first thing we need to address here is whether relative newcomer Tony Jaa is indeed "the new Bruce Lee" as many are saying, on the basis of this movie the jury is out. His martial arts skills are unquestionable as is his athleticism and commitment to his art just like the late legend. The problem judging from this movie is his charisma and presence when not fighting on screen. Perhaps it's the fault of the script and possibly the limitations of its Thai origins that this side of him doesn't shine through. This is the only downside of his electric calling card to Hollywood, this is a man destined to be Thailand's biggest export since their green curries.

The film itself gets off to a slow start for a martial arts movie, taking over half an hour to get the set up out of the way, what follows is an hour of sometimes-breathtaking action. The chase on foot through the streets has more then a nod to another of Jaa's oft compared to luminaries Jackie Chan, even utilising the multiple take pioneered so effectively by Chan. We see Ting (Jaa) running, jumping through hoops and even amusingly running over the chasing mobs heads. In this sense Jaa is closer in comparison to Chan than Bruce Lee however lacking the slapstick comedic talent so evident in the great Jackie's movies.

The plot itself is the staple of so many other martial arts movies, small town/village/country man goes to big city for whatever reason and ends up using his fighting skills for money/honour under the guide of a mentor/exploiter (certain Van Damme movies spring to mind). We even have a sub bond villain in a wheelchair using a voice box to speak.

This is a martial arts movie so lets talk about the fighting, firstly it's very welcome to see a none kung fu style instead we have the art of Muay Thai, an effective medley of crunching elbows and bruising knees. Owing to its low budget eastern origins we get far more realistic fight scenes then the more recent penchant for wirework and arty slow motions, here we have blows that connect and genuinely make the audience wince. When Ting takes on his third consecutive adversary in an illegal fighting contest and is met with a crazed opponent who will use anything at his disposal to kill him, you know you're firmly out of Steven Seagal territory.

This movie suffers notably from budgetary restraints, some of the acting is incredibly poor and the script serves merely to get us to action scenes, which is just about forgivable when the scenes in question are so good. Martial arts fans can add a star or two to this score; period drama fans can subtract one (or two).

Geoff Lewis


Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen 16x9 with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, the movie is presented very well.


Disc 1

Exclusive brand new orchestral soundtrack composed specially for the UK theatrical and DVD release!

Audio commentary from Asian film expert Bey Logan

Disc 2

The Cutting Room Floor (8.36 mins) Entitled 'Devine Inspiration', 'Three-point rendezvous', 'Two wheel taxi', 'Looking for trouble', 'Money for noodles', 'Deity valued', 'Close to death' and 'Alternative ending', these deleted and alternative scenes are more story oriented than action.

Promotional Archive

Ong-Bak on Tour (3.01 mins)
A montage of footage from Tony Jaa's promotional tour for the movie as he gives demonstrations of Muay Thai/Thai Boxing.

The Art of Muay Thai (24.05 mins)
A featurette that looks at the philosophy and techniques of Thai Boxing. From the famous Chitralada Gym and Sor Vorapin Thai Boxing Gym in Bangkok, trainers and fighters talk about the 200-year history of the sport.

UK Promotional Trailer (2.10 mins)
Watch the trailer that accompanied the UK cinematic release.

Road to Glory: The Making of Ong-Bak (1hr 16.43 mins)
Split into sections entitled 'The Sacred Cloth', 'The market chase', 'Fight Club', 'Tuk-Tuk Mayhem', 'Ringside', 'Man on Fire', 'Pole Position' and 'Final Victory', this documentary includes commentary by director Prachya Pinkaew as he talks over B-Roll and rehearsal footage from 'Ong-Bak'

From Dusk to Glory: An interview with leading man Tony Jaa (3.46 mins)
Director Prachya Pinkaew joins the star of the movie as they talk about the shooting style and choreography of 'Ong-Bak'.

Fight Club

Visible Secret: Rehearsal Footage Montage (4.04 mins)
Star Tony Jaa and co-star Don Ferguson 'block out' potential ideas for a fight sequence.

The Bodyguard: An Interview with Don Ferguson (10.05 mins)
Tae-quon-do expert talks about his martial arts career, this involvement in Thailand and the movies he has become involved with.

Mad Dog: An Interview with David Ismalone (11.33 mins)
The martial artist reveals how he came to Thailand, how he got involved with movies, working with Jackie Chan and the full contact fights of 'Ong-Bak'.

Pearl Harbour: An Interview with Erik Markus Schuetz (13.45 mins)
The martial arts expects reveals how he became involved with stunt work, working with Jackie Chan on 'The Medallion' and becoming involved with the choreography for 'Ong-Bak'.


Premiere Asia has done a fantastic job with the DVD package of 'Ong-Bak'. The special features on the second disc are extremely good, covering most aspects of the films production and the history behind Thai Boxing/Muay Thai. Foreign language films tend not to receive as much bonus material as their Hollywood contemporises but this is different when it comes to martial arts movies and this package keeps up that standard.


Drunken Master

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