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Another Portland Blog

Sunday, March 06, 2005

 

Jump kicks, jump kicks, jump kicks

I can now say that I have seen every conceivable jump kick in the history of martial arts. Jump kicks off tables, jump kicks off miniature taxis and flaming jump kicks to the head. Jump kicks, jump kicks, jump kicks is what Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior is all about and it delivers the goods.

Ong-Bak, which opened in Portland on Friday, has received heavy press on movie sites like CHUD and AICN over the past few months but little anywhere else. The low-budget movie from Thailand stars Tony Jaa as a young monk that just so happens to be an expert in Muay Thai, a martial art that focuses on blazing fast fisticuffs (and jump kicks). When a gangster makes off with the stone head of Ong-Bak, his town's sacred Buddha, Jaa sets off to Bangkok to track him down.

Not that the plot matters much. After a prolonged first act, the rest of the movie consists of little more than a string of action scenes. In Bangkok, Jaa finds himself pulled into an underground boxing circuit. He takes on a Hulked-out boxer in one match, which quickly erupts into an all out bar brawl as the two of them toss tables, refrigerators and live electric wires at one another. In another, Jaa finds himself literally on fire as he takes on gang outside a gas station. In perhaps the film's best stunt, Jaa performs a flaming jump kick which ignites one thug's head.

Ong Bak's tagline proudly proclaims "No computer graphics. No stunt doubles. No strings attached." The acrobatic moves that Jaa performs recalls the best of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. Some would his style surpasses even them. During the film's running time, Jaa leaps over cars, under speeding trucks and an endless series of other obstacles while jump kicking everything that moves.

As every review I've read points out, this isn't the last American audience will be seeing of this prodigy. My prediction is that Jaa will star in one or two more great films overseas before heading for Hollywood to co-star in a fish-out-of-water comedy starring Chris Tucker, Owen Wilson and/or a talking ferret.

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