Thursday, February 24, 2005

Movie Review: Ong-Bak, The Thai Warrior

First off, let me say: Whoa.

Anyone who goes in to one of these movies expecting plot does not deserve to be allowed to watch Kung Fu flicks.

Even so, this was a brilliant outing for first-timer Panom Yeerum (Tony Jaa), a phenomenally gifted athlete and Muay Thai fighter. Some of his stunts would have put a young Jackie Chan to shame, and some of his fight scenes would start to hold candles to the great Bruce Lee. It was not heavy-handed, or heavy-hearted either. The big chase scenes both involved Ting (Panom) and his cousin, played by the stocky Petchtai Wongkamlao, who actually can act. Petchtai was essentially comic relief, getting his pants ripped while jumping over a pickaxe, and so forth. In fact, the funniest moment in the movie (and make no mistake, it was laugh-out-loud funny) occurs when George (Petchtai) comes to a street-chef, and whips one of his cutting knives off of the cutting board, and turns around to face his attackers, with a very evil gleam in his eye. The attackers stop, but seeing the size of the knife, start in again. George turns around, and pulls a ten-pound butcher knife off of the table, and makes an even more evil face. The attackers, seeing desperation, and a big knife, back off. For a few seconds, they stare at eachother.

And then this tiny little old lady with a double-basket slung accross her shoulders, walks slowly between them, chating "Knives for sale, knives for sale, knives for sale." The next scene shows the attackers, all wielding butcher knives, chasing George again. I almost coughed iced tea out my nose, the scene was composed so perfectly.

Back to Panom, though. His fights are just damn breathtaking. The first fight is just one dipping-rising knee blow to the chest, which completely KO's the bar-fighter. The whole crowd in the movie falls silent, and the whole crowd watching the movie says "Holy shit! Rewind that, that was cool!"

The next fight sequence is three fights in a row... easy, medium, and hard. The hard one deserves an award, as Ting and some huge friggin dude named Dragon battle around the fight club. You can tell how the fight is going to go when Dragon stands up, and walks towards the ring: The ring announcer sees Dragon, screams "Oh, God!" drops the microphone, and runs. The result? Ting is covered in bruises, Dragon is unconcious, and about fifty-thousand dollars of damage is done to the joint.

The Gas-station fight is also very worth it, as Ting fights while his legs are covered in flaming gasoline. That was just cool.

End result: best new martial arts movie I've seen in.... well, best new martial arts movie I've seen. Period. Jackie Chan, we miss you. Bruce Lee, we miss you. Panom, make more movies!