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"Ong-bak kicks butt.."










The Masked Reviewer

The Masked Reviewer is no stranger to the martial arts genre, and Ong-bak is the latest sensation to hit the big screen in quite a while. 

Prachya Pinkaew is the director, teamed with martial artist lead actor Tony Jaa.  They're currently working on another movie together, and this could be a team to keep your eye on.  This is the best martial arts movie to come out in years.  It pushes the envelope with great stunts and interesting cinematography.  On top of that, Tony Jaa's skills are truly impressive.

The film is Thai, subtitled in English.  Most people's exposure to Thailand includes the tasty noodle dish Pad Thai and...well, that might be about it.  The fighting style Tony Jaa practices is called Muoy Thai.   By the way, the Thai people have name branding down to a science.  Pad Thai, Muoy Thai...they both have Thai in their name.  That'll help make Thailand a place that people remember.

In any event, Muoy Thai employs a lot of elbow strikes, pushing, and shin-kicking.  It looks painful.  And when Tony Jaa does it, it looks REALLY painful.  He's a martial artist that looks especially impressive on screen.  His movements are fast, clean, well-balanced, and powerful.  When he takes someone out with one move, it looks like he really did something. 

Combined with the fight scenes are some rather impressive stunts, in the vein of Jackie Chan (of the old days).  The director employed a nice technique of showing really impressive things three or four times in a row, from different angles.   You can see that it's real, and you can appreciate how difficult it is. 

Where most martial artists would jump over a bad guy with a single flip, Tony Jaa does double flips.  He gets slammed around a lot, and keeps on coming, but he doesn't seem to have the unbelievable invincibility of Steven Segal in most of his movies.

The low points of the film would have to be the story (but hey, it's a martial arts movie, so the story is just there to tie the stunts together) and the music.  Some of the music is kind of nice, actually, but it gets repeated to death and drones on for too long.  If you stay for the credits, you'll be treated to some French gangsta rap.  It's hard to imagine there's a market for French gangsta rap.  What could be less threatening than gangsta rap in French.  Barney the Dinosaur, perhaps. 

A few other moments are perhaps funnier than they should be.  One of the bad guys is called Don.  That's not a great name for a Thai villain.  Also, another bad guy speaks through one of those vibrating voicebox know...the kind that people have when their voice box is makes them sound like a robot.  A character on South Park has one.  It's very sinister.  Of course, when you read the subtitle saying "You're a jerk", it's hard not to laugh.  And, there's a truly funny moment with the electronic voicebox, but the Masked Reviewer won't spoil it for you.

Any fans of martial arts films will definitely want to check this out.  It's not as funny as Jackie Chan, but it's very impressive.  They also don't rely on wire-work, which is a refreshing change.  Ong-bak kicks butt.

Expectation from the Title: Who knows?  It sounds like a horrible typo.

Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):  Thai people seem very nice to each other, for the most part.

The Pros: Excellent stunts and martial arts, and some nicely stylish directing.

The Cons: Writing isn't the best, music is kind of lame, but who cares?

Pracha Pinkaew  or Tony Ja or Ong Bak, or Thai martial arts?  This is place.

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