Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Tony Jaa as Ting
Photo: Magnolia

Directed by: Prachya Pinkaew.
Produced by: Prachya Pinkaew & Phanna Rithikrai.
Written by: Suphachai Sithiamphan.
Director of Photography: Natawut Kittikun.
Edited by: Thanat Sunsin.
Music by: Atomix Clubbing.
Released by: Magnolia.
Language: Thai with English subtitles.
Country of Origin: Thailand. 105 min. Not Rated.
With: Tony Jaa, Petchthai Wongkamlao, Pumwaree Yodkamol & Sukhaaw Phongwilai.

Baby-faced Ting (Tony Jaa), an orphan from a drought-stricken village, arrives in Bangkok to track down the thief who ran off with the severed carved head of Buddha, dooming his village. George (Petchthai Wongkamlao) hails from the same town and is the only person Ting knows in the big city. Bleached-blond and with a crew cut, George is either running from thugs or running scams with his shrieking teenage tomboy sidekick Muay Lek (Pumwaree Yodkamol). In order to confront the crime ring holding the statue, as well as recover the village savings that George has stolen from him, Ting will have to break his promise not to employ the fatal moves of Muay Thai taught to him by a monk. The goodhearted rube meets his match in crime boss Khom Tuan (Sukhaaw Phongwilai). Surrounded by mini-skirted eye-candy, the wheelchair-bound smuggler speaks, and smokes, through a tracheotomy scar.

The slender story line of good vs. evil is an excuse for many terrific fight scenes. The film begins spectacularly as young villagers race up a tree to capture a flag. In an illicit fight club, Ting inadvertently faces off with opponents three times his size. But the centerpiece is a chase through a marketplace, where anything from fried food to chili paste is a weapon, set to a throbbing disco beat and a wah-wah electric guitar.

The fighting choreography almost has a balletic grace to it, but equally impressive are the human punching bags that bear the blunt of Ting's kicks and punches. About 20 minutes too long, the action sequences are exhausting, but Ong-Bak is refreshingly free from CGI-enhanced action, a departure from recent martial art films. Kent Turner
February 11, 2005



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