Reviewed by: Kotleta

This film is silly and illogical with embarrassingly bad acting, excruciatingly obtuse and stupid dialogue, absolutely no subtext and a repetitive narrative strand. But it's also hugely entertaining.

Hero is to ballet what Ong-Bak is to break dance. When you watch a Chinese martial arts film the fight scenes are choreographed to such a degree of fluidity that the violence is completely subsumed, and then they use special effects and camera tricks to make it look even more beautiful. If this is anything to go by, Thai martial arts films take the opposite approach.

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The action sequences are feral and imaginative, every punch hits home and you can almost feel ribs cracking to the beat of the comical Oriental hip-hop soundtrack. In Ong-Bak, the fighting still looks like dancing, but it also looks like it hurts. A lot.

The actual plot is of negligible interest to viewer or cast. Naif village boy Ting must brave the big city (Bangkok) and retrieve the stolen head of a statue in time for the village festival. He's aided in his quest by irritating con girl student Muay and his cousin Hamm Lua (aka George), who's basically the village prodigal son. Ting's arch nemesis is a bloke in a wheelchair who speaks through a voice box, not quite in the class of Dr No but nonetheless slightly revolting when he actually smokes through a hole in his throat.

One of the most original and surprising moments in the film occurs during a chase sequence. As Ting hurdles a series of unusual obstacles to escape the bad actors in cheap clothes, he runs past a shop hoarding bearing the graffiti, "Mr Spielberg, let's do it together!!" Now is that a genius way to break into Hollywood, or what? Well, I was impressed.

If you had too much time and too little life, you might wonder if the diminutive Ting's victory over his multinational opponents (American, Japanese, Australian and someone who made grunting noises and had tattoos) was an incisive social commentary on the dichotomy of Thai national identity. And then you might wonder why George's little pal was called Muay, when Muay Thai is the name of the martial art that Ting practices. Or, you might not bother.

This film is just mental from start to finish. Whoever would have thought that it could be so much fun watching people beat each other to death.

Reviewed on: 13 May 2005
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Thai martial arts goes mental with bad actors in cheap clothes.
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Director: Prachya Pinkaew

Writer: Prachya Pinkaew, Panna Rittikrai

Starring: Tony Jaa, Petchtai Wongkamlao, Pumwaree Yodkamol, Suchao Pongwilai, Chumphorn Thepphithak, Chatewut Watcharakhun, Wannakit Sirioput, Rungrawee Barijindakul, Chatthapong Pantanaunkul, Nudhapol Asavabhakhin, Pornpimol Chookanthong

Year: 2003

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Thailand


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