Film — Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (R)

Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (R)

by Amy Diaz

Watching one guy beat the crap out of another guy is fun — such is the (not incorrect) premise of the thoroughly enjoyable Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior.

Because sometimes going to the movies is all about a bag of Sour-Patch Kids and an hour and 40 minutes of uninterrupted, improbable violence. Can one guy really beat up dozens of bad guys, oftentimes in groups? Who cares? You’ve got your junk food, you’ve got your junk film and you’ve got your slightly more than 90 minutes of escapism.

Ting (Tony Jaa) is a small-town nearly-monk who also happens to be a real corker at Muay Thai, a form of martial arts that’s all knees and elbows and painful kicks to the internal organs. Early in the movie, he promises never to use his vast knowledge in a fight. Yay!, you think, soon he’s going to start fighting in Muay Thai!

The occasion? Right before the small town’s once-in-24-years festival-of-something, thieves cut off and abscond with the head of the big Buddha that sits in the, you know, centrally-located temple-hut thing. Ting is chosen to travel to Bangkok and retrieve it — let the fighting begin.

He gets a little help from a former resident of the village who now lives in Bangkok and calls himself George (Petchthai Wongkamlao) and George’s high-pitched-voice-having sidekick Muay (Pumwaree Yodkamol). Together, they look for the Buddha head, fight some guys, look for the head some more, fight some more, drive around in carts, fight and, well, fight some more.

Each fight is, like a blood-soaked little snowflake, different from the rest. The one where they drive around in carts and fight is, for example, different from the fight that takes place in a nightclub and ends with Ting fighting the rare Anglo whose attack method involves throwing big heavy things (tables, refrigerators, lamps) at Ting.

Ong-Bak, taking place in contemporary times and sticking primarily to actual martial arts with no computer-generated effects or string fighting, is not the cinematic epic that Chinese movies such as House of Flying Daggers are. It’s simple, direct and to the point — which is that fighting is cool, especially when you’re watching it and not actually engaged in it.

Like an order of deep-fried, stick-sauce-covered orange chicken, Ong-Bak is delicious junk food that, when it’s what you crave, is absolutely satisfying.

- Amy Diaz

 
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