[box cover]

Ong-bak: The Thai Warrior

Hoping to retrieve the important head of a statue, which was stolen by miscreants, young martial artist Ting (Tony Jaa) has to face up against numerous opponents, all in the employ of a mafia figure named Don (Wannakit Sirioput). On his journey, Ting partners with George — who's also referred to as Humlae (Petchtai Wongkamlao, a character in different translations known as "Dirty Balls") — a greedy, out-only-for-himself character who must learn the value of his culture, which he abandoned for the big city. The narrative of 2003's Ong-Bak (titled here as Ong-bak: The Thai Warrior) is not very complex, and the plotting goes from being awful to just ho-hum. But what marks it as a great import is not its story, but the appearance of Tony Jaa as Ting — who in one film announces himself as a star kung-fu presence the likes of which hasn't been seen on screen since Jackie Chan made 1978's Drunken Master or Jet Li made 1991's Once Upon a Time in China. Jaa's stunts are so impressive that director Prachya Pinkaew has to show many of them two or three times — often in slow motion — just so the audience can see that no wire work or CGI trickery was involved. And in his fights the stunts often use Jaa's elbows as his deadliest weapon, giving his attacks a fresh appearance compared to Hong Kong efforts. Which complements the fact that — as the film's publicity insisted on pointing out — there was no wire work or CGI trickery used in the fights, it looks like the filmmakers let the cast beat the crap out of each other for real. Even the first-time viewer is better off fast-forwarding to the fight scenes, but Jaa (who studied four years for the role) and his stuntwork are so impressive that whatever narrative shortcomings the film has are counterbalanced by his star presence. Hopefully, he'll get a better script next time. Fox presents Ong-bak: The Thai Warrior in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio in the original Thai with optional English subtitles; a Dolby 2.0 Surround dub in English also is available, but it's worth avoiding like the plague. Extras include "Live Tony Jaa and Stuntmen Performance Before French Auditorium Audience" (3 min.), "The Movements of Muay Thai" (2 min.), "French Rap Video with Tony Jaa" (4 min.), the "Making of Music Video" (7 min.) "Selected B-Roll" (8 min.), a promo video featuring the RZA (1 min.), and six trailers for the film. Keep-case.
—DSH



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