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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Tony Jaa
Petchtai Wongkamlao
Pumwaree Yodkamol
Suchao Pongwilai.
Directors
Prachya Pinkaew.
Screenwriters
Suphachai Sithiamphan.
Running Time
101 minutes

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Ong-Bak
If we may borrow from Tarantino, this is 'ass kicking nirvana'.


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Plot
All is peaceful in Ting's (Jaa) tiny Thai village. Until, that is, some nefarious no-gooders saw off the head of the Ong-Bak - the village's Buddha statue - and steal it away to sell to an evil businessman. It's up to martial-arts-master country boy Ting to save the day.


Review
Martial arts fighting hurts. Stating the bleeding obvious? Well, yes, but most actors could be forgiven for forgetting this, what with their action caperings becoming so dependent on vogueish, CG-assisted wirework. It looks amazing but it just isn't real. And while there's nothing inherently wrong with that, it's good to see someone like Ong-Bak star/fight choreographer Tony Jaa spurning the cables, the VFX, the stunt doubles, even, and hurling himself into some astonishingly savage melees.

In terms of story, script and shooting style, it's undoubtedly B-grade. Attempts at inserting darker drama are ineptly handled, the lead girl character shrieks unbearably and we're lumbered with a standard-issue tubby comedy sidekick. Yet, when the fists are flying it's a balls-out joyride, boasting a level of pugilistic realism rarely seen on our big screens.

It's worth noting that this isn't, strictly speaking, a kung fu movie. The martial art practised here is Muay Thai, a style of kickboxing which we've not seen much on British screens due to the BBFC's previous dislike of crunching elbow- and knee-blows. Furthermore, the actors/stuntmen aren't afraid to be hit for real. In Ong-Bak, blows - often rendered in slo-mo and repeated from different angles - really connect.

This might all sound rather sad and boys-only, but it isn't. Between them, Jaa and director Prachya Pinkaew ensure every action scene thrums with applause-conjuring innovation. One chase comedically throws every cliched obstacle Jaa's way - but not without some twists. Take the classic 'two men with pane of glass' schtick. Here, it's a sheet of double-glazing, with Jaa nimbly diving between the two panes, rather than smashing through just the one. Elsewhere we see Jaa (not a double, mind) leap through a ring of barbed wire, slide under a moving truck and deliver a flying knee-kick to someone's head while his leg is on fire. This guy's so full-on, he makes Jackie Chan look about as acrobatic as Charlie Chan.

Without doubt, Jaa's a star - a man very possibly worthy of the 'new Bruce Lee' tag. It's likely he'll go on to bigger, more American-flavoured things, and tone his act down in the process. Our advice? Catch him while he's fresh.


Verdict
Despite its clumsiness with anything that isn't action, this wildly inventive, brutally entertaining martial arts classic-to-be is thoroughly deserving of crossover success.


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Ong-Bak
Empire Star Rating

Phenomonal stunts make up for lacking in plot and screenplay ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheNapalmKid at 09:12, 05 October 2009 | Report This Post


Phenomonal stunts make up for lacking in plot and screenplay ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheNapalmKid at 09:12, 05 October 2009 | Report This Post


Bone-crunchin'

In terms of fights this is pretty impressive and brutal. Otherwise the plot is wafer thin and the leading man as expressive as Josh Hartnett after botox. If you're 14 and into martial arts you'll think this is the BEST MOVIE EVA. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Caster at 14:44, 20 July 2008 | Report This Post


Best fights ever

How can people put this film down because of bad acting and clumsiness. The fights are best in any film and I think it's the best ever martial arts film, perhaps best film altogether. The end fight in the cave is awesome. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by cerberous at 11:54, 24 October 2006 | Report This Post


Ong Bak is a Thai film which falls into the bizaree category of being a tongue-in-cheek violent martial arts film. The plot follows a young man , Ting (trained in the ancient arts of fighting), as he ventures into the big cosmopolitian city from the tiny traditional village to get the head of a Budda 'Ong-Bak' which has been stolen by thieves. Needless to say, the film follows Ting as he discovers fight clubs, drug warfare and gangsters. The film plays nicely, and manages to amaze and enter... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ukedge87 at 11:30, 21 August 2006 | Report This Post


Ong Bak is a Thai film which falls into the bizaree category of being a tongue-in-cheek violent martial arts film. The plot follows a young man , Ting (trained in the ancient arts of fighting), as he ventures into the big cosmopolitian city from the tiny traditional village to get the head of a Budda 'Ong-Bak' which has been stolen by thieves. Needless to say, the film follows Ting as he discovers fight clubs, drug warfare and gangsters. The film plays nicely, and manages to amaze and enter... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ukedge87 at 11:29, 21 August 2006 | Report This Post


Ong Bak is a Thai film which falls into the bizaree category of being a tongue-in-cheek violent martial arts film. The plot follows a young man , Ting (trained in the ancient arts of fighting), as he ventures into the big cosmopolitian city from the tiny traditional village to get the head of a Budda 'Ong-Bak' which has been stolen by thieves. Needless to say, the film follows Ting as he discovers fight clubs, drug warfare and gangsters. The film plays nicely, and manages to amaze and enter... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ukedge87 at 11:28, 21 August 2006 | Report This Post


Ong-Bak

Watching this film, from about 15 minutes in you really get the impression that the whole affair is action, action, and more slo-mo brutal no-wires action. Style over substance, and no, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The title sequence as Ting and others from his village all climb a massive tree together as part of a competition to claim a flag that sits on top is mightily impressive, you can really feel the danger that the character, and the actor, are in. This only revs you up for more, w... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Da Big Cheese at 22:32, 07 April 2006 | Report This Post


I agree with Empire -- this is a solid 4-star effort. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mingusman at 16:17, 24 March 2006 | Report This Post


FUCKING AWESOME

Amazing fights sequences, funny dialogue and unbelieveable stunt sequences, this film pushes the limits and i think that a film like this will never be made into a remake as it is impossible to do as Tony Jaa is unbelievable. This movie took 3 years to make and a lot of injuries happened, but after 3 years filming the film turn out to be fantasic and not a wash out. I would like to say fuck the people on this website saying this film is disspointing, they should have there brains checked out.... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by djedgeucation at 21:41, 18 February 2006 | Report This Post


Watched this last night. Extremely entertaining and amazing to watch. as for acting, well, it was subtitled so I tend not to focus too much on the actors in that situation. great flick ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by orn-free-tada at 11:59, 18 February 2006 | Report This Post


Enjoyed the film, not the best acting in the world, but good fight scenes, the instant replays where overused ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Welsh Beds at 21:34, 10 February 2006 | Report This Post


RE: Ong-Bak

I thought it was definitely refreshing to see such realistic martial art work after all the CGI and wirework of the last few years. The story is awful, but if you loved Ong-Bak, you should check out Tony Jaa's follow up, Tom Yum Goong which is about one man's love for his elephant! There is one fight scene in there done with a steady cam in one take up a stairway that is just absolutely crazy! Love it... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheMachine at 11:00, 06 January 2006 | Report This Post


RE: Ong-Bak

I agree with Clownfoot totally on this one! Totally mind blowing, fast paced action. Yes the acting and script are awful, and as mentioned by Clownfoot George's girlfriend is totally annoying, you can forgive it these points for the excellent stunts and choreography! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by EdNortonFan at 00:24, 06 January 2006 | Report This Post


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