Friday, 21 March 2014

Ong-bak (2003)

Action movies are great, aren't they? Okay, you can wade through a LOT of rubbish to find the gems, and I'd say that a rubbish action movie is often less entertaining than a rubbish horror movie, but when you discover an exciting new talent it's usually in an exciting new film. Which is what happened when Tony Jaa arrived on our screens in the punchy-kicky-bruise-fest known as Ong-bak. This wasn't the first movie that Jaa had starred in, but it was his first major leading role, his breakout film, and rightly so.

The head of a statue is stolen from a village and the locals are most distressed. The statue is something they look after in order for it to bless them with good fortune. It's a very important piece. Ting (Jaa) volunteers to head to the city to retrieve it, and that's when his troubles start, as he ends up unwittingly entering a building that pits fighters against one another, while spectators bet on who will still be victorious.

Ong-bak isn't really the kind of film that lends itself to standard criticism. Do I pick apart the script by Suphachai Sittiaumponpan or comment on the shot choices made by director Prachya Pinkaew? Do I weigh up the lead actor against the solid support from Petchtai Wongmalao, Pumwaree Yodkamol and everyone else onscreen?

No. I tell people that this is, once it gets going, just a brilliant, brutal action movie that showcases the skills of Jaa. He jumps through stuff, he runs, he jumps through more stuff. And when people get in his way he ends up causing some serious pain using his feet, hands, elbows and any body part that he can cause pain with.

There are only two main negatives to this movie. First of all, the first third of the movie seems a bit slow, but that's partly down to just how brilliant and action-packed the second half of the movie is. Second, once you've seen Tony Jaa in action it's hard to take any threat against him seriously. He's not invulnerable, far from it, but you can't help but feel sorry for everyone who tries to give him trouble.

Action movie fans should already be well aware of this film. If you somehow missed it, rectify that immediately.


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