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).
PICTURE & SOUND
Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen 16x9 with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
sound, the movie is presented very well.
Exclusive brand new orchestral soundtrack composed specially for the UK
theatrical and DVD release!
Audio commentary from Asian film expert Bey Logan
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.
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'.
Visible Secret: Rehearsal Footage Montage (4.04 mins)
Star Tony Jaa and co-star Don Ferguson 'block out' potential ideas for a
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.