Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (review)

Get new reviews in your email in-box or in an app by becoming a paid Substack subscriber or Patreon patron.

Wow! The most entertaining new Hollywood action movie wasn’t made in Hollywood… it was made in Thailand. A country boy and devotee of the kick-boxing discipline of Muay Thai (Tony Jaa) travels to Bangkok in search of the stolen head of his village’s sacred Buddha statue and gets sucked into its seedy underworld of warring crime bosses and bloody fight clubs. Watching Jaa dance through his acrobatic martial-arts routines — and “dance” is the only word for it; there’s a breathtaking grace, if a lethal one, to how he moves — makes me appreciate how moviegoers must’ve felt the first time they saw Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan do their thing. Jaa could be the next martial-arts superstar — stick him in a buddy comedy with the Rock and you could finance a small war on the box office. Director Prachya Pinkaew shoots the hand-to-hand combat with a raw, gritty energy that brings to mind ’70s cinema, and several spectacular foot chases — through the obstacle course of narrow, bustling city streets, including humorous new approaches to fruit carts and the guys carrying plate glass — are like nothing you’ve ever seen before. And the cherry on top? The funniest bar brawl since Airplane!

share and enjoy