Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Night Fu Review: Ong-Bak

A new irregular feature! Though when I say I'm setting out to review Kung Fu movies, that's really just a catch-all term to mean martial arts films as a greater genre. The focus of this review is probably technically a Muay Thai movie, though as best I can figure it's a hot gorgeous mess of Muay Boran and Taekwondo and general gymnastical amazingness that will asplode your head in the best way possible.

Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior (องค์บาก) (2003) is simply a hundred minutes of point-blank awesome. Tony Jaa is the star, and he deserves that title. The baddies are bad-ass, but he steals every taker's thunder, which can be a tough task for a pure-of-soul, humble protagonist. Jaa is just a freak in the best way imaginable. Trivia fact: he was ordained as a Buddhist monk this past May. Hope that won't put too much of a damper on possible future movies appearances.

The IMDb synopsis is dull but accurate [and I have cleaned up the poor English here]: Booting (Ting) lives in a small and peaceful village. One day a sacred Buddha statuette called Ong Bak is stolen from the village by a immoral businessman who sells it for exorbitant profits. It becomes the task of Ting to track the thief to Bangkok and reclaim the religious treasure. Along the way, Ting uses his astonishing athleticism and traditional Muay Thai skills to combat his adversaries.

But don't be swayed by that. Be swayed by this:

I mean, holy crap. The barbed wire hoop-jumping?

The American tagline for the film is "No stunt doubles, no computer images, no strings attached." I believe it. It's gritty and scrappy and damn near obscene in its use of one-take wide-shot action-flick stunt orgasms. Oh God, I could go on and on, but I won't. So astounding yet essentially simple. If you've got Netflix, stream it for free on Instant Watcher here.

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