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.