It’s official- I’m not perfect, or at least this blog is not perfect. If one takes a glance down the ever-growing list of films I’ve reviewed, it is possible to note a few recurring trends. For starters, nearly all of them have massive explosions in and secondly, nearly all of them cost as much as a handjob from the Queen. Some people (and you know who you are) have pointed this out and have suggested that I review some more diverse films. Normally I would tell them where to stick it, but I’d like to think I’m a better reviewer than that. So, let it never be said that I never answer my critics. Here are my thoughts on Ong-Bak aka “Holy shit! Did he do that for real?!”
It’s all The Matrix‘s fault. Whilst I am aware wire-fu had been around long before Keanu Reeves uttered the immortal line “Whoah…” The Matrix brought wire-fu to the forefront of Western cinema and within a couple of years, everyone was flipping about the screen gracefully, sticking their middle fingers up at gravity. Trouble is, wire-fu by its very nature has no real physicality to it. With that in mind, consider Ong-Bak– a film which its tagline proudly proclaims has “No computer graphics. No stunt doubles. No wires.”
Everything is hunky-dory and Disney-esque in the Thai village Ban Nong Pradu until weasel faced bad guy Don (Wannakit Sirioput) steals the head of Ong-Bak- the village’s sacred Buddha statue to try and sell it on for profit. It’s up to country boy Ting (Tony Jaa) to get the Ong-Bak er…back. The plot reminded me a lot of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as that film too concerns a sacred artifact being stolen from some remote village. However, the films’ similarities end there as, whilst the second weakest entry in the Indy franchise, Temple of Doom used the plot for more than an excuse for being manly men to beat the crap out of each other. Well, a little more anyway. It’s not so much a film as a big showcase for Muay Thai aka Thai Boxing.
It’s possible to see the above statement as a bad thing, but it isn’t neccessarily. I mean the acting is pretty rubbish and the plot is hackneyed but the fighting and stunts were so good, I didn’t really care about all that. It’s so kinetic and inventive it hushed my nagging little reviewer voice in my head and instead drew out “oohs” and “ahhs” like I was watching a particularly violent and bloodthirsty fireworks display. I mean, just watch this video in its entirety and tell me you’re not impressed. The stunts are just mind-blowing.
The one thing that kept bugging me about Ong-Bak was its constant peddling of religion. The MacGuffin is a Buddha head, Ting has faith and therefore will triumph in the end and blah blah blah. It’s no secret that I don’t buy in to the whole religion thing. It’s an ancient form of control which has been kept alive through the ages because it makes a select few people obscene amounts of cash. What really annoys me is when a film uses religion as the hero’s power, making out that all you need to do is picture your selected diety and you become Ultimate Badass of the Universe and get a free yacht. As corny as it is, I prefer the crappy “believe in yourself” message a lot of films trot out these days. Yes, Thailand is a religious country and I suppose any film made there will reflect that, but the whole thing smacked of religious propaganda which is one of the things that is guaranteed to rile me up.
Ong-Bak is a perfectly fine film if you regard it as a collection of incredible fights and stunts rather than an actual film. See it before Tony Jaa goes Stateside and stars in a remake of Rush Hour.
So that’s Ong-Bak, the first film of my friends’ so called “film amnesty” in which they give me films without booms and bangs and expect me to enjoy them. I’ll let you know if I survive…