East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior: Nope, Asian actresses don't come off any better here

Foot Strokes Face!

Is there really such a move in the Muay Thai manual? If so, kickboxing will gain back some of the respect I lost for it after seeing their guys repeatedly get schooled by the grapplers in Pride. (Although if you're reading this, Mirko Cro Cop, please don't hurt me.) Some of this status has already been reclaimed thanks to the star here, Tony Jaa. To my untrained eye, he doesn't have the speed of Bruce Lee or the elasticity of Jackie Chan, let alone the acting ability of Chow Yun Fat. But he has a mean jumping elbow and a clever director, which is enough to build on. Writer/director Prachya Pinkaew makes Jaa, who's also credited as co-choreographer with co-writer Panna Rittikrai, go through the standard performing seal tropes (hero running down road + workers carry coil of barbed wire across the road: do the math.) The fighting is on a higher level: there's one sweet strike I remember in particular, where Jaa, while ducking a roundhouse, hits his own spin kick. Pinkaew obliges us by repeating this in slow motion, as he does with every cool move in the movie, sometimes more than once.

Downside: The women in the movie have nothing roles, and are thus prone to hysterically overacting at the slightest provocation. Upside to the downside: Tony Jaa's non-acting, in constrast, seems like studied understatedment. Just hope that no Village Voice writers try to deconstruct his asexuality.

Oh, and the story is garbage, but neither you nor I really care about that.

Further reading: Chuck Stephens's only slightly nondeconstructive review.


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