Ong Bak: Muay Thai Warrior

Year: 2005
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Usually when films reference another film or classic genre they're trying to hang the selling of it on something with a much better deserved reputation.

Ong Bak and it's star Tony Jaa were flogged by distributors as the new Bruce Lee, and unexpectedly, the description couldn't have been truer. Jaa has the acting skills and emotional projection of a tree trunk, the dialogue is corny, the story paper thin, and the only time the screen comes alive is during the fight scenes - all just like the classic Bruce Lee films.

A simple villager come to the big bad city to seek out the stolen head of his village's Buddha statue, and gets himself mixed up in some sleazy shenanigans involving drugs, organised crime and illegal street racing with a former villager now con man, and an irritating heroine who looks like a twelve year old girl.

Getting roped into a fight tournament by mob bosses and having to see off several gangs of heavies is all Jaa is called on to do, and the fight scenes are quite incredible. As a martial artist Jaa is a great talent, balletic not just in fighting but scenes like the running street scene escape.

Apparently there were no wires, no stunt doubles for the lead, and no computer graphics. Watching the brutality of the fights, it's a wonder someone didn't get killed. But this is Thailand, essentially a third world country where they don't have the regulation most of the English-speaking world does, so maybe someone did.

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