Ong-Bak - My Review and Your Thoughts -
June 16th 2011, 05:59 PM
As a note, I know very, very little about Thais, Thailand and Thai culture, so there probably are many references and symbols used but I cannot identify all them. There certainly are many visible ones, such as the bowing, importance of the Ong-Bak statue and so forth. I won't hold this against the movie as that's just silly to do but if anyone has seen this movie and knows more about Thailand, its culture, politics, etc..., please give an analysis. With that said, overall I rate it 7/10, a much lower rate than I'd like to give but giving a higher one just isn't fair, the movie isn't good enough.
The setting is within multiple cities and villages of Thailand, ranging from Bangkok to Ting's home village, Ban Nong Pradu, to Khaosan Road where the illegal fight bar is located and to Chao Phraya and its river, where the final battles occur. In each of these settings, the cinematography is pretty great as it often shows a panoramic layout before any of the characters start interacting. For example, at the beginning of the Chao Phraya, the camera shows a nice shot of the entrance to the cave, shrubbery, etc... before Ting (Tony Jaa) and George (Petchtai Wongkamlao) come in. If you recall such movies as Karate Kid 2010 where the movie sometimes felt like a tourist ad, you don't get that feeling in Ong-Bak because there's just a right enough of scenery but not too much.
Unlike in other movies, the plot is relatively straight-forward with some wrenches tossed in there to hinder the path of Ting. These often involve Ting, George and Peng (Cheathavuth Watcharakhun) running from bad guys or fighting off bad guys. These scenes are fairy good but as you'll see below I do mention why they aren't as good as they could be. Going back to the plot, one problem is holes in the plot or things occurring with no real explanation. For example, after Ting and George fight off Komtuan (Suchao Pongwilai) and his goons, the large Ong-Bak head statue rolls and kills Komtuan as well as George. For no explained reason, Peng, the female who cant really fight and is very passive, someone runs to his aid, implying she got through more than 15 goons, some of which had guns and knives. Ting nor George question how she got there, in fact, they don't even look surprised when she arrives. Another hole in the plot is when the three are getting chased by the gang of more than 10 bad guys and one of them finds Peng hiding in the corner. He yells and insults her, then moves forward to her and she curls up but when she's seen again, she's unscathed with no sign of that bad guy ever again for the rest of the movie.
Overall, the acting is pretty good and since I haven't seen the actors, except for Tony Jaa, in other movies, I cant really compare them all that much. Despite this, the acting from most of the characters is fairly good. I'm not sure if it's her natural voice or if she's talking like this is in the movie, but Peng's voice really begins to annoy the hell out of me. She whines so often and it sounds like a small child whining so damn loud. George was amazing and also tried to be the comic relief by making crude jokes, such telling Peng she's succeeding in her courses because she's fucking the teacher and once Peng gives him an evil glare, he stops laughing, almost looks afraid and says she'll be a good student. Not only is George funny and crude, he's also brave as he steps in to help Ting on multiple occasions, such as when the goon with the band-saw is trying to cut through Ting's arms and neck, George intervenes yet earlier he admits to not knowing how to fight at all. Ting's acting is pretty amazing as well, as he appears to be aggressive and angry yet tries to not use his kick-ass fighting skills to kick the crap out of someone for beneficial gain. He also reveals some Thai culture, such as his bowing after knocking out Big Bear (Nick Kara) and refusing to finish Toshiro (Nudhapol Asavabhakin), even when he pretends to admit defeat.
The fighting. It's a bit odd at first because the movie advertises Ting uses muay thai fighting, however, you notice the ropes on his hands is actually muay khat chueak. What's very interesting though is this form is an extremely uncommon form of fighting, yet it is seen so often throughout the movie. One of the few times Ting does not use this is when he's in the underground fights with Big Bear, Toshiro and Mad Dog (David Ismalone). Regardless, Ting's fighting is amazing but one thing I think really brings it down is the frequent replays in slow-motion of some fancy moves. It's fine to have this every now and then but when there's a fight scene, it's meant to be moving fast yet these replays prevent that from happening. In the underground fighting, there's none of this and those are the high-light fight scenes, so I think if there were far fewer replays, the fighting scenes could be much, much better.
Another issue with the fight scenes was during the slow-motion replays, you could easily see how the bad-guys suddenly drop their guard, open their chest, tight shut their eyes and look away. You can see this even when it's not in the replays but the replays make the fights too unrealistic. Again, it reduces the quality of Ting's fight scenes, a real shame. If these fight scenes were better, I'd rate it much higher but as it stands, I cant bring myself to do that. In other movies starring Tony Jaa, such as The Protector (2005) (a remake from a 1985 movie starring Jackie Chan which was also very good), there are some slow-motion scenes but very few of them and they often show the great moves other fighters do, especially when fighting the unnamed Capoeira fighter (Lateef Crowder).
I can rip you off, and steal all your cash, suckerpunch you in the face, stand back and laugh. Leave you stranded as fast as a heart-attack.
- Danko Jones (I Think Bad Thoughts)