Review: Ong Bak (2003)

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Ong Bak caused more than a stir when it was released to the megaplexes in Bangkok (I know, I was there at the time) and when it was released into international markets it caused an even bigger stir, in fact Ong Bak is one of those outstanding films that have brought massive recognition of the Thai film industry.

Ong Bak has an undemanding story at best, and before I go any further I’ll let you know that this doesn’t matter one bit. The story is solely constructed just so that we can see Ting (Ja Panom) run around and beat people into a fine mash; take for example George (Mum Jok-mok), who is only in this film to land Ting in compromising situations where beating guys down is the only key to survival.

Well since the name of the game in Ong Bak is style over substance, like in many other films that have arrived in our cinema’s of late, I’m happy to see that it then brings with it, something that I have missed, that is, REAL hard hitting action. Ong Bak makes absolutely no use of wire crews and CGI, and with an actor who can slide under a moving car while doing the splits, I guess those luxuries aren’t needed.

Essentially, the entire film is shot to put emphasis on Ting’s prowess and
director Prachya Pinkaew opts for an effective variety of setups that achieve this. Most of the time the films fight scenes are framed wide, while rarely cutting into close ups (compared to contemporary martial arts films). This type of staging takes on an un-contrived view of the fight sequences, allowing the best view of Ting, executing one of his awe inspiring flying elbows. The chase sequences are again shown in a way to boast Ting’s athleticism. The chases are pretty much all staged along a lateral plane of action where a set of obstacles are impeding the path of our mighty hero; much like an old video game, we see Ting run in frame, jumps through a ring of barbed wire, and then exits the frame, ready for the next obstacle.

I can find nothing disappointing about this film, and being a self confessed martial arts film fan, I couldn’t resist pushing this film to the top 5 of my all time greatest films list.

10 flaming jump kicks out of 10.
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