Ong Bak 2003 Movie Scene Tony Jaa as Ting with his hands wrapped in rope up to his elbows, a trademark of Muay Korat

Ong Bak [2003]

There’s a reason why Ong Bak is still one of the most popular martial arts movies. The answer is very simple, as it features stunning and ground-breaking fighting scenes. Just as wires slowly started to take over the world of martial arts movies, Tony Jaa came bursting through the door. There’s no CGI or wires in Ong Bak, just good old-fashioned stunt work. This was Tony Jaa’s breakout role and he would go on to star in two prequels to this movie and many others. Muay Thai feels very different from Kung Fu or Karate. It’s more exotic and exciting, especially if the fight is choreographed well. And you can bet your sweet ass they were phenomenal here.

If you’re a fan of movies like this or simply eighties movies, I’m sure that you remember Kickboxer starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. This is the first time I’ve heard of Muay Thai and it looked fucking wild. That scene with Tong Po kicking a cement column is forever seared into my memory. Here’s a fun fact that proves just how good is this movie. Before its release to western audiences, Steven Seagal saw the movie and wanted to release it through his production company. Of course, this new version would come with new scenes featuring Seagal as the teacher of Tony Jaa’s character. Luckily that never happened.

Ong Bak is a Thai movie through and through. So, I urge you to watch it with the original audio, using subtitles. After all, we all know that the story or the dialogues are not that important here. However, the atmosphere certainly is. And I fell in love with Thailand as soon as I saw this movie. I already explained how I really didn’t like The Beach and checked it out just a couple of years ago. Anyways, you can expect beautiful and lush jungles, quaint and picturesque villages and of course, the one and only, Bangkok. And since they just legalized cannabis, I’m so ready to visit this beautiful country. 

Ting is a young man living the good life in the small village of Ban Nong Pradu in rural Thailand. He spends his days practicing Muay Thai and having fun with other villagers. However, when some evil men steal a part of the Buddha statue from their temple he will have to go after them. The only problem is that his path of righteousness and vengeance is going to take him to Bangkok…

The main story reminded me of the hilarious South African comedy Gods Must Be Crazy. Although you can expect Ong Bak to go down the list of all the martial arts movies cliches. You simply know there’s a deadly tournament going on and that Ting is going to make some unlikely friends. And there will some funny scenes too, not as much as in Jackie Chan movies, but just enough to keep the atmosphere fun and entertaining. And to provide a much-needed break after those brutal fights. Our man is going to bust some heads, I can tell you that much.

One of the few things Ong Bak is missing is a memorable antagonist. Sure, we will get the main fight and all that, but I think that it would be much better if they had the “Kickboxer structure”. However, this shouldn’t prevent you from watching this highly entertaining movie. The last fifteen minutes were quite crazy featuring some pretty wild scenes. The first prequel is just as good as the original while the second one is a bit bland.

Director: Prachya Pinkaew

Writers: Panna Rittikrai, Prachya Pinkaew, Suphachai Sittiaumponpan

Cast: Tony Jaa, Petchtai Wongkamlao, Pumwaree Yodkamol, Suchao Pongwilai, Boonsri Yindee

Fun Facts: Tony Jaa trained in the ancient form of Muay Boran for four years to prepare for this role.


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