Wednesday, December 13

Movie Review (Part 1): Ong-Bak (2003)

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Part 1: Theme and Story

Read Part 2 of movie review (The Impressive Stunts)

Muay Thai is now seen more as a modern sport, rather than a battlefield skill. But the film exposes more on the really impressive hand-to-hand combat skills with a deep and formidable background on spiritual training. And it transforms the human body into a multifaceted weapon for close-combat fighting.

The attempt to promote the metaphor of being a god and stealing the head of a town’s god (through the local crime and drug lord who keeps on using that weird voice producer) is a fine deal. He reveres himself as the god. The idea that he has the money and power to control and dictate who he wants to die and who he wants to live is given good validation by his dialogues.

The film complements a reddish colorgrading to fit the mood and feel of its action-packed visuals. The effects utilized are as simple as dynamic and moving camera shots matched with the right camera lenses and good camera angles, slow motion and fast motion effects, and the old school repeating of action shots seen on different angles (simple, low-budget editing tricks that work for its advantage). The gravity-defying stunts and the jumping and bouncing human bodies are all but real, no strings attached.

Those who are into martial arts or are interested in Muay Thai can get much things from Tony Jaa’s moves. The authentic fight scenes are really worth immortalizing in those organic film strips. And this Thai film seems successful in promoting interest and curiosity to the Muay Thai, especially in a non-Thai’s perspective.

“Ong-bak” is a breath of fresh air from the usual Hollywood “action fakes.” Special effects? What special effects? Jaa’s moves surely blow the audience away. With the great, impressive stunts but not so compelling story (though this one tends to get overlooked upon seeing Jaa’s martial arts moves), watch it for the action. It’s worth it.

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