When Ong Bak came out in 2003, it was the action movie martial arts fans all over the world wanted, with a leading man who combined the look of a fierce fighter whilst still being the nice and harmless country boy.
The story focuses on Ting (Tony Jaa), a villager who is out of his element in the city of Bangkok looking for a man named Don, who has stolen a Buddha’s head from his local village .The Buddha’s head is referred to as Ong Bak and believed to be essential to the growth of the village’s farmed goods – therefore their survival.
During his travel into Bangkok one of the local villagers asks Ting to find his son Humlae, and deliver to him a personal letter. Ting finds Humlae, who is crazy betting whatever money he finds to get ahead, and uses his partner, a young (full of attitude) girl named Muay to cheat his way to a win – a technique which is usually found out rather quickly, and lands him in trouble.
Ting finds himself in an underground fight club (trying to find Humlae) where he accidentally walks onto the floor and gets himself involved in a fight – a fight he wins effortlessly in seconds.
Humlae and Ting eventually work together to find the Ong Bak, all the while Humlae tries to get Ting to fight, so he can make money off his victories. Eventually Ting wins many fights he is basically forced into, and a local crimelord Komtuan – a grey haired paraplegic man with a voice box (for whom some people seem to fear!) loses a lot of money betting against him. This in turn makes the situation become much more serious which leads to both the criminal group under Komtuan to go after Ting and his friends, whilst they are trying to retrieve the Ong Bak from Don (who as it turns out it working for Komtuan).
City Slickers Vs Country Bumpkin
This movie shows a comparison between the country boy from the village and the city thugs of Bangkok. While we’re shown the forms of Muay Thai that Ting has been taught at the beginning of the movie, the expectation is that the thugs (who took the Ong Bak form the village) would prevail with weapons and numbers.
But Ting’s simple life and extensive Muay Thai training makes him a force to reckoned with in the city, as he seems to effortlessly come out on top in every confrontation.
Even amongst his friends Humlae and Muay (if you can call them friends!), Ting’s honest old fashioned methods and attitude seem completely moronic in their eyes – yet they’re constantly in trouble and making enemies which Ting is forced to deal with because his good nature.
Ting Doesn’t Like Seeing Women Being Beaten!
What man does? It’s the code of a man to step for any damsel in distress.
Ting’s first fights are almost a direct result of him stepping in and preventing a woman from being beaten. Essentially, it shows Ting’s character above all else is the reason for him to use his Muay Thai, every fight there after is more self defense or to rescue a friend.
I do find it amusing however that he fails to notice the girl overdosing in Don’s apartment, whilst running after him desperate to retrieve the Ong Bak. On another level, a Thai man stands up for his race and is almost beaten half to death by the vulgar, built Australian fighter Big Bear (not all us Aussies are bad guys, but we are vulgar 😀 ), Ting doesn’t seem even slightly concerned until a women is slapped by Big Bear. It kind of seems a little distorted, but that’s his character.
The Martial Arts
Above all, this movie is a exciting showreel of Tony Jaa’s talents.
The story and messages are pretty standard but the fighting isn’t. You see a wide range of skills used by Tony Jaa in Ong Bak. From a martial arts perspective, he uses the Muay Thai in a highly glorified onscreen style, using hand to hand combat, weapons (using or fighting against opponents with them), and even shows a traditional side, bowing at the end of one fight in the fight club.
The range of action is also reasonably diverse for a fight flick. Ting fights one on one, multiple opponents and even has a couple of chase scenes. Once chase scene where he is chasing Don in the tuk-tuk (like a small Thai Taxi) and of course the famous scene where he being chased through the streets by a series of of young thugs.
This chase scene where Ting is on the run, shows off some awesome Parkour style techniques as he leaps over, under, around and through just about any obstacle that lands in front of him, whilst stopping occasionally to beat up a few guys 🙂
The movie lives up to it’s reputation of impressive action featuring no wires or CGI!
The chase scene and all the other fight scenes really show off Tony Jaa’s ability to perform just about any stunt required of him in a martial arts film, and is truly awe-inspiring to watch. Combined with the raw ‘No BS’ shooting style of the film, Ong Bak is an instant classic that’ll rate highly on my list!
Would I recommend it?
HELL YES. If you haven’t seen Ong Bak, you’re missing out on one of the top martial arts movies of all time. Ong bak is a turning point where Thailand stepped up to the plate a as country that could pump out some really kick ass martial arts movies, and be represented by a top actor/stuntman like Tony Jaa. While Muay Thai has been a national sport for the Thai’s, this movie is like a Thai Flag for Martial Arts Movies – showing through film just how flexible, diverse and powerful the Muay Thai fighting style really is.
This is one of the greats, and it’s reasonably easy to find:
On Blu Ray –
Region A (US & Canada)
Ong-Bak on Blu-ray
Region B (UK, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, etc)
The only Region 2 Blu Ray of this movie has Italian Subtitles, (No English) – available here
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
Ong-Bak on DVD
Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)
Ong Bak on DVD
or Watch it Online Here
(US & Canada)