Certain films, like Prachya Pinkaew's Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior, exist as nothing more than a platform to display a person's tremendous physical talents. Ong-Bak's sole purpose for being is to establish lead actor Tony Jaa as the Jackie Chan of the new century -- a worldwide celebrity whose considerable talents in the martial arts will make the viewer forget that the movie is in another language.

Pinkaew's film follows a structure that made certain Chan films of the late '90s so successful on this side of the Atlantic: a martial arts (in this case Muay Thai) prodigy is forced against his will to purge the urban underground of its crime lords and, well, compromised values. In this particular case, said crime lords have stolen a Buddha, Ong-Bak, from Jaa's village. Understandably, Jaa promises the village to travel to Bangkok's underworld to retrieve it and restore peace to the countryside.

Like most of the plot lines, whether Jaa retrieves Ong-Bak or not is of little significance. People just want to see him kick some ass, and he does so in a most mesmerizing way, at times concealing the latent, predictable storylines that make the film drag.

Don't be mistaken: Ong-Bak will not enthrall you with clever plot twists and avant-garde cinematography. It will, however, introduce you to an action star, Tony Jaa, who we should expect to see for some time in the future.


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