Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior

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Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior

Theatrical poster
Directed byPrachya Pinkaew
Produced bySomsak Techaratanaprasert
Prachya Pinkaew
Written byPrachya Pinkaew
Panna Rittikrai
Suphachai Sittiaumponpan
StarringTony Jaa
Petchtai Wongkamlao
Pumwaree Yodkamol
Music byAtomix Clubbing Studio
CinematographyNattawut Kittikhun
Editing byThanat Sunsin,
Thanapat Taweesuk
Distributed bySahamongkol Film International
Release date(s)January 21, 2003 (2003-01-21)
Running time105 minutes
CountryThailand
LanguageThai
English
Budget฿150 million
($US 5 million)
 
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Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior

Theatrical poster
Directed byPrachya Pinkaew
Produced bySomsak Techaratanaprasert
Prachya Pinkaew
Written byPrachya Pinkaew
Panna Rittikrai
Suphachai Sittiaumponpan
StarringTony Jaa
Petchtai Wongkamlao
Pumwaree Yodkamol
Music byAtomix Clubbing Studio
CinematographyNattawut Kittikhun
Editing byThanat Sunsin,
Thanapat Taweesuk
Distributed bySahamongkol Film International
Release date(s)January 21, 2003 (2003-01-21)
Running time105 minutes
CountryThailand
LanguageThai
English
Budget฿150 million
($US 5 million)

Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior (Thai: องค์บาก [oŋbaːk]), also known in the United States as Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior is a 2003 Thai action film. It was directed by Prachya Pinkaew, featured stunt choreography by Panna Rittikrai and starred Tony Jaa. Ong-Bak proved to be Jaa's breakout film, with the actor hailed internationally as the next major martial-arts star. Jaa went on to star in Tom-Yum-Goong (called The Protector in the US and Warrior King in the UK) and directed 2 sequels to Ong-Bak, Ong-Bak 2, Ong-Bak 3.

Contents

Plot

The film begins in Ban Nong Pradu, a rural village in northeastern Thailand whose most prized possession is an ancient Buddha image, named Ong-Bak. Ting, the village's best athlete, wins a tree climbing race and demonstrates extreme skill in muay Thai but vows never to use it for personal gain. During the night, visitors from Bangkok attack Ting's uncle and steal the statue's head which Ting promises to recover.

In the city, Ting meets with his cousin Humlae who has dyed his hair blond and begun calling himself George. He and his friend, Muay Lek, are street-bike racing hustlers who have fallen in with a bad crowd of yaba dealers. They find that they speak the same Isaan dialect.

Humlae is at first reluctant to help Ting, but when he sees the small fortune in coins that Ting has collected from his village, Humlae takes an immediate interest. When Ting is in the bathroom, Humlae grabs the sack and heads for a bar on Khaosan Road where an illegal boxing match is going on. Ting tracks Humlae down, but instead of getting his money back, he ends up fighting and being named the new champion.Ting's unexpected skill takes the gambling crowd by surprise and this makes Ting an enemy of Komtuan, a gray-haired, wheelchair-bound crimelord who needs an electrolarynx to speak. It is discovered that Ong-Bak was actually stolen by one of his henchmen, Don.

George and Muay Lek begin working a scam at a baccarat game in an illegal casino. When the scam is discovered, a drug dealer punishes George with a beating. Ting ignores George's cries for help, but intervenes when the drug dealer attacks Muay Lek. When additional henchmen arrive, a footchase through the alleys ensues. Ting helps George escape in exchange for his assistance in helping to find Don.

That night, Ting's skills are showcased once again when a fight breaks out at the bar. After many opponents are wounded, Komtuan tries to have Ting killed. Muay Lek, meanwhile, has been struggling to keep her older sister Ngek from using drugs. Ngek has fallen in with Don. On the bed, Ngek, following her sister's advice, says she wants to quit. Don, in his anger, violently suffocates her by stuffing drugs in her mouth. Muay Lek shows up at Don's apartment with George and Ting to find her sister near death. George and Ting take off and chase Don in tuk-tuks, with several of Don's men joining in. After dispatching many of the drivers, Ting ends up at a port in the Chao Phraya River, where he discovers a cache of stolen Buddha images. This leads back to the gangster Komtuan, who promises to deliver Ong-Bak's head if Ting throws a fight with one of his bodyguards - a Burmese boxer and has been treating himself with drugs to increase his strength and endurance. Ting loses the fight but is betrayed by Komtuan who kidnaps Ting, George and Muay Lek and orders his henchmen to kill them.

Ting and George subdue the would-be assassins and follow the gangsters into a cave in a mountain, where the head of a giant Buddha image is being chiseled away. There is a final showdown, with Ting fighting off all of Komtuan's henchmen and George trying his best to help. Komtuan's bodyguard launches into a second drug-crazed fight with Ting but is defeated. Komtuan then shoots Ting and attempts to crush Ong-Bak's head with a sledgehammer. George covers the head with his body, taking the beatings himself. At that moment, the giant Buddha head falls onto them. Komtuan is killed instantly but George is left with enough strength to utter a dying wish - for Muay Lek to graduate school and for Ting to look after her.

The head of the Ong-Bak Buddha statue is restored in the temple of Ting's village. Ting, now ordained as a monk with shaven head and white robes, arrives into the village in a procession on an elephant's back while the villagers and Muay Lek celebrate his ordination.

Cast

Club fighters:

Production

The film introduced international audiences to a traditional form of muay Thai (or Muay Boran, an ancient muay Thai style), a kickboxing style that is known for violent strikes with fist, feet, shins, elbows and knees. The fights were choreographed by Panna Rittikrai, who is also Tony Jaa's mentor and a veteran director of B-movie action films. Jaa, trained in Muay Thai since childhood, wanted to bring Muay Thai to mainstream so he decided to make this movie. Jaa and Panna struggled to raise money to produce a demo reel to drum up interest for the making of the film. Their first reel was made on expired film stock, so they had to raise more money and start over.

Trivia

Alternate versions

After Ong-Bak became a hit in Thailand, sales rights for outside Asia were purchased by Luc Besson's EuropaCorp, which in turn re-edited the film.

Most of the subplot involving Muay Lek's sister, Ngek, was removed, and the final showdown between Ting and Komtuan's bodyguard was shortened. The French company also rescored the soundtrack with some hip-hop sounds, replacing the Thai rock score, and it is this version that has been made available in the United States and most of the Western world.

For the United Kingdom release, the soundtrack was scored yet again, this time with an orchestral score, but the film was left uncut with the subplot of Ngek.

The Hong Kong cut of the film's theatrical release omits a "bone breaking" sequence toward the end, where George's arm is snapped and Ting in turn snaps the leg of a bad guy. DVD releases in Hong Kong have the scene restored.

An alternative ending offered on the Thai, Australian, and UK DVD releases has George surviving. He is seen at the end bandaged up, limping, with his arm broken, supported by his parents. Prachya Pinkaew stated in an interview that although there was debate, they ultimately decided it would be appropriate for him to make a meaningful sacrifice for the village.

Alternate titles

Subtitle issues, DVD releases

English subtitles were absent from early DVD releases of Ong-Bak. The Thai release omitted the subtitles, as did the versions released in Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea.

For a time, the only legal home-video version of Ong-Bak with English subtitles was a Hong Kong VCD, but the translations were generally poor.

With the UK and US DVD releases, Ong Bak became officially available with English subtitles, but those are versions that have been re-edited. There is also an Australian-issued DVD which is a two-disc package featuring both the original Thai cut and Luc Besson's version.

Box office

Ong-Bak premiered as the closing film of the 2003 Bangkok International Film Festival, and then opened in a wide release in Thailand cinemas in February 2003. On February 11, 2005, the film was released in North America in 387 theatres under the title Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior. In its opening weekend, it grossed US$1,334,869 ($3,449 per screen), on its way to a US total of $4,563,167.

Critical reception

According to some critics, Ong-Bak is an unabashed "Hey, look at what I can do!" action movie[2][3] starring the main character's martial arts abilities.[4] Its onrush of chase scenes, hand-to-hand combat and acrobatics,[5] sometimes shown multiple times from different angles,[4] drew notice for its quality, inventive moves[5] and lack of CGI and wire-fu.[6] The film currently holds an 85% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Prequels

After Ong-Bak became a huge worldwide hit, Jaa's name was attached to many projects. He went on to act in a small role in the Petchtai Wongkamlao vehicle, The Bodyguard (co-directed by Panna Rittikrai), and then starred in the much-anticipated Tom-Yum-Goong in 2005. In March 2006, it was announced that filming for Ong Bak 2 would start that fall and the film would be a prequel to the original. The film was eventually released in December 2008, with Jaa debuting as director.

A second prequel, Ong Bak 3, followed where the second film left off. This means that Ong Bak takes place chronologically after Ong Bak 2 and Ong Bak 3.

References

Notes
  1. ^ Duong, Sehn. August 16, 2006. Tony Jaa Says No to "Rush Hour 3," "Yes! Yes!" to Indy 4, and Reveals "Ong Bak 2" Tidbits, Rotten Tomatoes . Retrieved August 24, 2006.
  2. ^ "The slender story line of good vs. evil is an excuse for many terrific fight scenes." Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior review, Film-Forward.com
  3. ^ "Anyone looking for story or character should check out now. -- the only reason to see it is for the action. In that arena, on a scale from 1 to 10, it's a 20." George Wu, Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior review, Culturevulture.net
  4. ^ a b "You're pinned back in your chair, worried that Tony Jaa, a human hurricane of fists and flying feet, will jump out and kick you in the face." Phil Villarreal, Jaa's fists and feet take flight in 'Warrior'. Arizona Daily Star
  5. ^ a b "Certainly, they create a few moves that have never been done before. ...the appeal here is the action, and once they get past all the narrative setups, the stunts are relentless." Andrew Sun, Ong-Bak review, The Hollywood Reporter
  6. ^ "Counteracting recent exposure to the numbing effects of computer-generated and wire-supported tricks... ...the artifice-free antidote to such F/X enervation..." Lisa Schwarzbaum, Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior review, Entertainment Weekly
Bibliography

External links