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Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (2005) The rarer it is to experience the all-natural, whether in boobs or movie-screen martial arts, the more exciting it is to uncover the real thing.… 2005-02-18 R PT101M Foreign Language Tony Jaa Petchthai Wongkamiao Magnolia Pictures
Movie Review

Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (2005)

MPAA Rating: R

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Tony Jaa, Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior | JAA RULES Fighting skills — and jabs of humor — add up to a knockout performance in Ong-Bak
JAA RULES Fighting skills — and jabs of humor — add up to a knockout performance in Ong-Bak
EW's GRADE
B+

Details Limited Release: Feb 18, 2005; Rated: R; Length: 101 Minutes; Genre: Foreign Language; With: Tony Jaa and Petchthai Wongkamiao; Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

The rarer it is to experience the all-natural, whether in boobs or movie-screen martial arts, the more exciting it is to uncover the real thing. Counteracting recent exposure to the numbing effects of computer-generated and wire-supported tricks in a post–Crouching Tiger/hidden Matrix world, Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior is the artifice-free antidote to such F/X enervation — a jaw-dropper of a star-making display from lithe fighter-artist Tony Jaa, framed by a plot as bare-bones as a backroom boxing ring. Ting (Jaa, known no longer merely as Robin Shou's stunt double in Mortal Kombat 2) is a reverent country cousin with a world-class talent for Muay Thai boxing (those who know what this is can talk amongst themselves) who travels to Bangkok to retrieve a sacred stone Buddha head stolen by bad guys. And Ting fights a lot of them to get it back, with escalatingly desensitizing violence. (All in the service of Buddha, right?)

Ong-Bak (taken from the name of the sacred statue) is delivered raw, with an on-the-fly compositional approach from director Prachya Pinkaew that includes dim lighting and jumbled editing. Yet the jolting electricity of Jaa's talent illuminates the murk — as do sparks of humor when he leads pursuers on a chase as merry in its virtuoso inventiveness as any Jackie Chan used to do when he himself was a young, all-natural wonder.

Originally posted Feb 16, 2005 Published in issue #808 Feb 25, 2005 Order article reprints