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Ong Bak

Ong Bak

10 WORDS OR LESS REVIEW – Great fights, shit film.

The world is ready to replace an aging Jackie Chan.  As he’s gotten older his stunt work has become less spectacular, the daringness somewhat absent.  In some small part because of his tenure in uninspired American fare but mostly because he’s simply gotten older.  Happens to the best of us.  Being touted as the heir apparent to Chan is Thai sensation Tony Jaa.  A fierce physical presence, Jaa’s abilities cannot be denied.  The man can jump over a freaking car, twice.  He bends, leaps, contorts and punches face like a legend in the making.  He could kick Jesus and Jesus would appreciate the experience.  “Ong Bak” was his coming out party from 2003.  Such care was taken to place Jaa as the new Chan that his first feature plays almost exactly, but unwisely, like a Chan film.  The stunt work and fight scenes are stunning, awe inspiring creations which defy all logic, but all the remaining elements that make up a movie, I.E. story, screenplay and acting, can barely be stomached.  Just like a Chan film.

Chan’s Asian films are as we all know routinely terrible.  They’re bad on purpose, serving no other function than to showcase Chan and his near suicidal stunt work.  If Chan does have one thing on Jaa it’s that even though he is a stunningly bad actor, he still puts forth personality and effort, silly though it may be.  I have no clue if Jaa can actually act after watching “Ong Bak.”  I know he’s so fleet of foot that he can not only jump over people but walk on top of them as well.  His stunt work is Godlike in its impressiveness, quite possibly better than Chan’s, and he very likely has a long career ahead of him in action fare like this, but the presence of a person behind all the muscle is a total mystery after watching this first effort.  Jaa would be wise to find a vehicle which at least functions as a serviceable movie.  He’s made several films since this that I haven’t seen so maybe he’s opened up as a performer since.  But I’m doubting it.

“Ong Bak” has nothing going for it besides his insane basassery.  There’s enough of that on display to keep the all around stench of the rest of the movie at bay.  As much as I like Chan, I can rarely sit through one of his features without ample fast forwarding.  A similar fate awaits Jaa if he doesn’t marry his stunt work with a screenplay that utilizes it wisely and in service of something more than a story Van Damme would’ve likely passed on.


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