Classic Intel: Ong-Bak - Online Review

'martial arts-driven films are likely to age aggressively. Just look at anything starring Chuck Norris.'

Martial arts-driven films are interesting to revisit from the point of view of seeing just how badly they stand up to the passing of time, the genre being notoriously date-sensitive, likely to age aggressively. Just look at anything starring Chuck Norris.

If ever a film about kicking and punching people very hard should be able to survive the test of time though then Ong-Bak, the film which introduced the art of Muay Thai to the world, is it. Muay Thai is ostensibly a martial art which encourages the use of elbows and knees in addition to the usual hands and feet; thus giving the practitioner the 'eight points of contact' mentioned during the film. Stellar leading man Tony Jaa uses the technique on various do-badders whilst the plot burbles on amount some lost statue or something: the purposeless MacGuffin that enables all of the head-cracking.

Indeed, the pursuit of said lost statue is arguably the film's main failing point. After half an hour, Jaa has still only fought one person and Muay Thai has made no more than a cameo appearance. Director Prachya Pinkaew seems oblivious to the fact that we haven't come to watch generic dialogue from rejected pages of Indiana Jones. We've come to watch a fight thank you very much and we're not really interested in how marginal and un-interesting side characters Muay (Pumwaree Yodkamol) and Humlae (Petchtai Wongkamlao) fit into things.

Eventually Pinkaew redresses the balance and Jaa is allowed to show off to tremendous effect, although the nagging creep of how much story time the side characters take up continues to be an irritation. So too do some of the directing choices. Great moves are consistently replayed to be ogled at, building up slow motions and weird camera angles as they go. It's nice to see the stunts again but it rather takes you out of the fact that you're watching a film.

Highlights include the jumping through glass panes bit, part of the street chase sequence, which is actually a much better display window (ha!) for Jaa than the inflated and generic final scene.

Ong-Bak was available on Lovefilm's Watch Online service.

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'Lesson Learned: When trying to be a badass in Thailand, wear some padding on top of your head.' - Movie Cynics

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