a) killed my family member
b) disrespected my dojo
c) took advantage of the poor-but-noble villagers from my home town
And in so doing, pissed off the wrong:
c) former Navy SEAL
Who is now forced to:
a) compete in an underground fight club
b) infiltrate the gang responsible for the misdeed
c) go back to the life he thought he'd left behind
A lot of films incorporate smatterings of all these elements, and certainly there are little nuggets of joy that differentiate one film from another to keep them from becoming boring, but martial arts movies are really all about the comforting knowledge that good will win out over naughty evil and that there will be a lot of bone-crunchings and head-bashings along the way. That's just gorgeous in its simplicity, isn't it?
"Ong-Bak," a 2003 Thai martial arts flick, follows proudly in the tradition of the most by-the-book Hong Kong martial arts movies, adding in an important element of spicy awesome: Tony Jaa. HOLY CRAP--this guy is amazing! His muay-thai kickboxing moves are sharp and really effective-looking (not that I'd want to be on the wrong side of one of Cynthia Rothrock's over-the-head-backwards kicks, but still--that seems to be more for show than anything else). The fight and action sequences are seamlessly executed, due in no small part to the much-promoted fact that the actors perform their own stunts. There's a cleverness evident in the machine-gun pacing of the action setpieces that keeps the movie from seeming too much like a visit to the circus.
The highlight, for me, takes place about midway through the film, when Tony Jaa's character (along with his buffoonish soon-to-be sidekicks) is chased through the winding alleyways and marketplaces of Bangkok. Inspired as much by the Warner Brothers as by the Shaw Brothers, take a look at all the ingenious obstacles that face the hero during this pursuit:
In retrospect, I can see why I never got into watching televised competitive sports--watching a bunch of guys get the ball into the proper area of a big rectangle is nothing compared to watching a guy deliver a deadly knee-blow to his opponent's throat.
Oh, and as to the plot, it's C, A, A. In case you were to busy wondering about such a small detail as that instead of enjoying the ride like you're supposed to!