Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior

Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior (Thai: องค์บาก) 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 is directing a sequel to Ong-Bak, Ong-Bak 2.

The scene opens in a peaceful, rural village in northeastern Thailand. A group of men, covered in mud, are standing by an immense Bodhi tree, looking up to the top where a flag flaps in the gentle breeze. With a great yell, they all run toward the tree and begin to climb, knocking others away. Men fall to the ground with a thud, bouncing off branches as they go. One climber comes out on top. It is Ting, the village's best athlete and fighter. He grabs the flag, ties it around his neck and descends, deftly avoiding the other climbers.

Ting is established as a reverent, respectful young man, and is anointed as such by the village's monk, in a ceremony at the community's humble little temple that night. Though extremely skilled in muay Thai, as he demonstrates for his "Uncle Mao" (indeed, it is literally "Uncle Drunk" in Thai), he has made a vow that he will not use it to harm another person for any personal monetary gain.

It is a poor village. All it has is an ancient Buddha image, named Ong-Bak. During the night, Ting's drunken Uncle Mao stumbles into the temple to discover something bad going on. He awakes the next morning to find the Buddha statue's head missing. The villagers all despair of the bad luck that will befall them if the Buddha's head is not returned. Ting speaks up and says he will recover it at all costs.

The villagers all chip in, giving up treasured baht and hoarded trinkets to pay for Ting's way to Bangkok, where he is to meet his ne'er-do-well cousin Humlae and get help in tracking down the men who stole Ong-Bak's head.

In the city, we find that Humlae has dyed his hair blond and renamed himself George, since his village name, "Humlae", also means "Dirty Balls". He and his friend, Muay Lek, are street-bike racing hustlers who have fallen in with a bad crowd of yaba dealers.

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. And, 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 after one kick waylays the old champ.

This makes Ting an enemy of Komtuan, a gray-haired, wheelchair-bound crimelord who needs an electrolarynx to speak. He's been watching the fight from his private room, and losing money because Ting keeps beating his fighters.

Meanwhile, back in Ting's village, there is bad luck indeed. The ground is dusty and full of cracks and all that's left in the village well is muddy water. They need the Buddha's head back for the drought to end and good luck to return to the village.

George keeps working shady deals, with he and Muay Lek working a scam at a baccarat game in an illegal casino. Eventually, the scams catch up with him, and the drug dealer shows up to give George a beating. Ting ignores George's cries for help, but when the drug dealer starts smacking Muay Lek around, Ting takes care of things. But then the drug dealer's friends and the cheated casino boss show up and a footchase through the alleys ensues, with Ting showing off his acrobatic skill as he walks over crowds, jumps through a barbed-wire hoop, leaps over a rack of sharp tools and does a gymnastics move over a wok of hot oil.

That night, there is another fight at the bar. Ting is egged on by Big Bear, a vulgar Australian fighter. Finally, after Big Bear beats another Thai man and assaults a waitress, Ting takes up the fight and easily beats the hulking man. He then must fight a very fast Japanese fighter, and finally Mad Dog, another farang, who favors the use of such objects as chairs, tables and even a refrigerator to punch and smash his opponents with.

Muay Lek, meanwhile, has been struggling to keep her older sister Ngek from using drugs. Ngek has fallen in with a bad guy named Don. Muay Lek shows up at Don's apartment with George and Ting to find her sister overdosed. George and Ting take off and chase the boyfriend in tuk-tuks, with several of Don's buddies joining in. The tuk-tuks take to an elevated expressway, and the scene climaxes with many tuk-tuks driving off the edge of an unfinished portion of the highway.

Ting follows the bad guys and ends up at the port and in the Chao Phraya River, where he discovers a cache of stolen Buddha images. This leads back to the gangster Komtuan, who makes Ting fight one of his bodyguards who has been treating himself with steroids, making him full of rage and impervious to pain.

Eventually, Ting and George are taken to the gangster's hideout in the mountains, where the head of a giant Buddha image is being chiseled away. There is a final showdown, ending in the Buddha head falling on Komtuan and George, killing them both, but Ong-Bak's head is recovered.
Spoilers end here.


* Tony Jaa as Ting
* Petchtai Wongkamlao as Humlae/Dirty Balls/George
* Pumwaree Yodkamol as Muay Lek
* Suchao Pongwilai as Komtuan
* Wannakit Sirioput as Don
* Chumphorn Thepphithak as Uncle Mao
* Rungrawee Barijindakul as Ngek

Featuring amazing chase sequences and bouts of intense, but gracefully choreographed violence, as well as Tony Jaa's own acrobatic agility and fighting prowess, Ong-Bak became most notable for eschewing CGI and wires in favour of physical stunts for its outrageous action sequences (however, a crane was used to lift a tuk-tuk during one sequence). Indeed, much of the film's international advertising boasted of the fact, with a tagline stating: "No stunt doubles, no computer images, no strings attached."

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 that all feature realistic stuntwork.

Jaa trained in muay Thai for four years to prepare for the role. However, despite this extensive training, a fair amount of the martial arts choreography is actually Taekwondo in style due to the art's impressive kicking techniques.

Jaa and Panna struggled to raise money to produce a demo reel to drum up interest for the making the film. Their first reel was made on expired film stock, so they had to raise more money and start over.

* During the footchase through the alleys, there is writing on a shophouse door that reads "Hi Spielberg, let's do it together." This refers to Tony Jaa's desire to someday work with Steven Spielberg.
* During the tuk-tuk chase, when a tuk-tuk falls off the elevated highway and hits a building, the following message is written on a pillar on the left side of the screen: "Luc Besson, we are waiting for you." The French producer-director's company, EuropaCorp, would go on to purchase the international selling rights to Ong-Bak outside Asia.
* One of Tony Jaa's favorite scenes is at the gas station. With his trousers on fire, Ting kicked one of the villains in the face. The flames spread upwards very fast and burned Tony's eyebrows, eyelashes and nose. He then had to do a couple of more takes to make sure it was right.

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.

The French company also rescored the soundtrack with some hip-hop sounds, replacing the Thai rock score, and it's this version that has been made available in the United States.

For the United Kingdom release, the soundtrack was scored yet again, this time with an orchestral score.

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 "alternate ending" offered on the Thai DVD release has George surviving. He is seen at the end bandaged up, limping, with his leg broken, supported by his parents.
Spoilers end here.

* In Thailand, it was simply called Ong-Bak. This name was preserved in Premier Asia's UK release.
* For the release in Singapore and other territories, as well as film festivals, it's Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior.
* In the United States and some other places, it's Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior.
* The Hong Kong English title was Thai Fist.
* In Italy the title was Ong-Bak: nato per combattere, which translates Ong-Bak: Born to Fight.

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 pretty 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's an Australian-issued DVD that's a two-disc package featuring both the original Thai cut and Luc Besson's version.

There are Ong-Bak purists who prefer the Thai cut of the film and insist that because the movie is mostly action, understanding the dialogue isn't really necessary.

On February 11, 2005, the film was released in North America at 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 total of US $4,563,167.

After Ong-Bak became a huge worldwide hit, Tony 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 be released sometime in 2007, with Jaa as director.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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