PLOT: When the head of a sacred statue is stolen from a rural village in Thailand, a young martial artist (Tony Jaa) must travel to Bangkok and fight his way through the underworld in order to retrieve it.
(This movie isn't nearly as serious as the trailer makes it seem.)
MEMORABLE MOMENT: I know that the most memorable moment should be an unbelievable action sequence filled with jaw dropping stunts, but I'll let those speak for themselves.
No, my favorite moment has to be when the comic relief character, Humlae (Petchtai Wongkamlao), is being chased through the streets of Bangkok by a gang of criminals. He grabs a meat cleaver off a table in a market and turns to face his pursuers. For an instant the gang is intimidated and the audience believes that Humlae might actually escape. Then, an old woman comes between Humlae and the thugs carrying two enormous baskets calling, "Knives for sale!"
You can guess what happens next.
ACCORDING TO IMDB:
- As you might guess, Tony Jaa performed all of his own stunts. No wires or computer effects were used during the fights.
- In the three-wheeled taxi chase scene, one of the little taxis crashes into a wall on which is written, "Hi Luc Besson we are waiting for you." (I guess they really like Luc Besson)
- Prior to the film's release in the western world, Steven Seagal was so impressed by the movie he planned to release the film through his production company with newly-shot scenes featuring himself as Tony Jaa's teacher (I kind of hope this isn't true).
WHO IS THIS MOVIE FOR?: Ong-Bak was made for fans of Enter The Dragon, Ip Man, and especially Jackie Chan's films.
I singled out Jackie Chan in particular because like Chan's most popular movies, Ong-Bak combines "oh my God they actually did that!" stunts with comedy. The chase scene described above has several moments right out of a Buster Keaton movie (maybe fans of silent film slapstick should also watch this film).
As for films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, Ong-Bak is similar to those only in that it contains fantastic martial arts sequences. However, if you're looking for Crouching Tiger's stunning natural visuals and easy going pace, you might prefer movies by Yimou Zhang (who also directed Hero).
That being said, if you are looking for action but haven't been introduced to the martial arts genre, Ong-Bak is an excellent place to start, especially if you've enjoyed the recent Avengers and Star Wars movies, which are more focused on comedy. Like those films, Ong-Bak isn't a spoof and contains some very dire scenes (especially in the second half), but there are plenty of hilarious moments that would have easily been at home in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnorok or even Force Awakens.
WHERE CAN YOU FIND IT? Netflix DVD. It is also available to rent ($3.99) or buy ($12.99) on Amazon. I'm sure you could also borrow it from many public or university library systems.
RUNTIME: 105 Minutes (104 Minutes Directors Cut...those tend to be longer.)
DIRECTOR: Prachya Pinkaew