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Film / Ong-Bak

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Ong-Bak is a 2003 Thai Martial Arts Movie and the film debut of Tony Jaa, showcasing his "no-strings-attached'' (as opposed to Wire Fu) style, and brought muay moran to the attention of global media.

Ting (Tony Jaa) lives in a small and peaceful village. One day, the head of a sacred Buddha statuette called Ong Bak is stolen from the village by a drug dealer working for an immoral businessman who sells it for exorbitant profits. It soon becomes the task of Ting to track the thief to Bangkok and reclaim the religious treasure. Along the way, Ting uses his astonishing athleticism and traditional Muay Thai skills to combat his adversaries.

There is a prequel released, called Ong Bak 2, which is far removed from the modern setting of the first and is essentially a Training Montage, a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, and closes with an considerable drawn out Quirky Miniboss Squad battle, involving Tony Jaa's character, called Tien, squaring off against every single "ancient" martial art developed in Asia.

Ong Bak 3 concludes Tien's story, and ties both movies with the first.

The film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: The other guy betting on the outcome of Ting's fights in the fight club is most likely some flavor of crime boss too, but is just infectiously jolly and doesn't seem to approve of Komtuan's antagonization of Ting.
  • A God Am I: Komtuan thinks he is one. A very ironic case considering he is elderly, frail, paralyzed, and needs an electrolarynx to speak.
  • Artistic License Martial Arts: While portrayed more or less realistically, the art of muay thai/muay boran usually does not feature the aerial stunts Ting does in this film, to say the least.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Toshiro, Ting's second opponent in the the Fight Clubbing scene, loves using big roundhouse kicks. They look very impressive, (the audience watching the fight even "oohs" with each one) but they're also predictable enough that Ting dodges them easily and uses Boring, but Practical tactics such as attacking Toshiro's legs or not giving him enough room to wind up for those big kicks to completely negate them.
  • Berserk Button: While Ting never quite goes full-on berserk, hitting women is a sure-fire way to set him off.
  • The Bogan: Big Bear.
  • Booked Full of Mooks: After Ting takes down Big Bear in the underground fight club, he tries to leave, only to find himself surrounded by the audience. When he tries to push through the crowd, members of the audience intentionally close ranks and pack themselves close together to prevent him from leaving. When he tries to push through another part of the circle, one of the men draws a gun on him. It turns out the much of the crowd work for the crime boss who runs the place, and the boss is angry with Ting for costing him money and disrupting the event.
  • Bottled Heroic Resolve:
    • Before the final fight, Ting takes an herb given to him by a member of his village to keep fighting.
    • The Dragon injected himself with some kind of drug in order to keep fighting the hero during the climactic fight scene, for all the good that did him in the end.
  • The Brute: Big Bear. He's a fighter in the crime boss Komtuan's underground fighting ring who is very big, very strong, very unpleasant, Australian, and is both the first opponent to get under Ting's skin and the first to be able to stand up to multiple blows from Ting.
  • Casualty in the Ring: Part of the backstory of Ting's master, which is the reason he commands Ting never to use Muay Thai for anything other than self-defense.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The professional fighter "Mad Dog" was a particularly dramatic example of this, using absolutely everything that came to hand as a weapon, even ripping out electrical wires to attack his opponent.
  • Country Mouse: Ting is a badass villager who's come to the city to reclaim the head of his village's buddha. Many of the people he meets even refer to him as "Country Boy".
  • Creator Cameo: Legendary (if controversial) muay thai trainer Ajarn Yodthong, who served as a consultant for the film, makes a cameo as the man selling cigarettes, which is funny considering Yodhtong is very against smoking in real life.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Ting's first opponent in the underground arena, Pearl Harbor, is set up as dangerous by soundly defeating an equally-fearsome foe after a fierce battle, shortly before Ting enters the ring. Right when the fight begins, Ting floors him with a single kick to the chest. The Stunned Silence can be felt through the whole room.
  • Dance Battler: Ting fights an afro-sporting taekwondo stylist in the arena.
  • The Dreaded: Mad Dog. When he came into the ring, the announcer didn't even bother introducing him, he just went "Oh God, Mad Dog!" and ran away. This fear proves to be founded; Mad Dog comes closest to defeating Ting with his Garbage Wrestler tactics and destroys half the club in the process.
  • Dynamic Entry: The steroid-popping Dragon ambushes Tony Jaa this way when when the hero was about to go after his boss.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first Ong-Bak is the only movie set in the present, while the sequels are both period pieces.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Tri-wheeled, golf cart-like taxis (Tuk Tuks), which explode rather dramatically one by one.
  • Evil Cripple: The seller of Thailand's national treasures, who is wheelchair-bound and talks through a hole in his throat.
  • Fight Clubbing: Komtuan runs an underground fight club circuit that Ting takes part in three times during the movie.
  • Gaining the Will to Kill: Throughout the film Ting goes from largely avoiding fighting to fighting, but still holding back somewhat and being willing to show mercy, to routinely handing out crippling beatings and performing attacks that could easily kill someone without hesitation.
  • Gilligan Cut: When Humlae acquires a large knife to fight off a gang of bandits, an old woman selling knives passes in front of them. Cut to Humlae fleeing from the bandits, each armed with a knife.
  • Handshake of Doom: Ting's third battle in the underground fighting ring is against Mad Dog. Initially, Mad Dog offers Ting his hand before the match starts. Ting agrees, believing it to be a gesture of honour. Unfortunately for Ting, Mad Dog is a cheater, holding an empty beer bottle in his other hand, and he uses that handshake as a chance to pull Ting closer and whack his head with said bottle.
  • Honor Before Reason
  • How Dare You Die on Me!: Humlae dies and a distraught Muay spends her last lines of the movie cursing him for dying.
  • Implacable Man: Ting.
  • Incendiary Exponent: Ting (played by muay thai expert Tony Jaa) kicks a mook in the head with his legs on fire. Jaa did his own stunts.
    • He also insisted on doing the take over and over again until he was sure it was right, despite having already suffered burns to his legs from prior takes.
  • Infernal Retaliation: During a fight at a gas station, Ting gets his pants soaked in gasoline from the knee down, before dodging behind some barrels, which are promptly blown up by gunfire. After a few seconds, Tony comes leaping out of the inferno and kicks a couple of guys with his flaming legs.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Humlae starts out as selfish and rather cowardly, but genuinely cares about Ting and Muay, and comes to care about the village enough to sacrifice himself to save Ong Bak's head.
  • Jerkass Victim: Big Bear. He is unnecessarily violent towards anyone he pleases, particularly offensive towards women, and seems to like bad mouthing Thai people. While all of the villains in the film are pretty much jerkasses, Big Bear, by backhanding a Thai waitress, is the first to get Ting to finally put aside his Buddhist/pacifist ways and get kicking.
  • Karmic Death: The demise of the crime boss Komtuan possibly epitomizes the concept of karmic death, as he is crushed under the falling head of a giant Buddha statue, which he was trying to remove and sell. You don't get much more karmic than that.
    • Especially considering he made a comment about having no respect for religion.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Don forcibly O.D.s a girl named Ngek when she tells him she wants to give up coke.
    • Big Bear starts molesting a waitress in an attempt to insult Ting and get him to fight, and when some poor schmuck from the audience tries to intervene and fight back, Big Bear starts beating the crap out of the guy and threatens to literally beat him to death. He tops it off by smacking the waitress when she tries to come back and help her would be rescuer.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: The last mook Ting faces in the first movie during the weapon swapping scene prompt drops his sword and runs when it's his turn.
  • Large Ham: The announcer from the fight club is this in universe, going gloriously over the top in announcing the fights. Despite being a willing henchman for a criminal organization, it makes him surprisingly likable.
  • Man on Fire: Ting kicks a man in the face while his legs are on fire. He then puts them out in a barrel of water.
  • Mix and Match Foreigner: The second of three fighters that Ting faces in the fight club has a Japanese name (Toshiro) and school uniform, while using a Korean fighting style, having an afro... maybe he's trying to represent multiple foreign stereotypes at once.
  • Mobstacle Course: Subverted as Tony Jaa, confronted by a crowd, runs across people's heads while the mooks chasing him have to play the trope straight.
  • National Stereotypes: Ting's foreign opponents in the first film are all national stereotypes from the Thai perspective:
  • One-Hit KO: Ting defeats his first arena opponent with a single kick.
  • One-Man Army: Ting. In the later sections of the movies entire groups of mooks try to fight him and he easily kicks their asses.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: The finale of sees Ting get shot in the shoulder with a pistol by the Big Bad at near point-blank range, but remains spry enough to vault off a piece of scenery and deliver dual-downward-knees to The Dragon hard enough to break through the piece of scaffolding they're standing on. Mind you, this is Tony Jaa we're talking about.
  • Le Parkour: Ting fleeing the bandits amounts largely to some impressive running acrobatics.
  • Redemption Equals Death: While this is true for Ngek, the girl who died because she confessed to wanting to give up coke, Humlae qualifies by returning to his Buddhist traditions to try to stop the smuggling ring.
  • Repeat Cut: Used for nearly every impressive stunt in the movie, showing the action from different angles and different speeds. Of course, given the damn impressive nature of the stunts, wouldn't you want to show them off as much as possible?
  • Serrated Blade of Pain: One Mook wields a saw as an Improvised Weapon.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: One of the mooks in the climax, after witnessing Ting lay a beatdown on the others, tosses his sword aside and scampers away.
  • Sheet of Glass: Variation. Ting runs through two guys carrying a pair of sheets parallel to each other (and the sidewalk). Ting then smoothly cartwheels between them without breaking stride (or the glass, for that matter).
  • Smash Cut: During the street fights scene, we get treated to one of Ting's opponents staring directly at the camera, flipping him off and screaming "FUCK Muay Thai!" Next moment he's floored by a Muay Thai kick to the face.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The soundtrack was replaced outside Thailand. This resulted in a kick-ass martial arts movie... with a French rap soundtrack?
  • Throwing the Fight: The final ring fight turns out to be a case of this, as Ting has been convinced that only by throwing the fight can he get the head of Ong Bak and save Muay. Unfortunately, Komtuan is a bastard who betrays Humlae and tries to have both of them killed.
  • Use Your Head: Big Bear's favorite move seems to be a headbutt that has been shown to send opponents flying. Somehow it never has any effect on him.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: This is the fighter Big Bear's defining trait. He's an undisciplined street fighter rather than a martial artist, but he's big and very, very strong.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: Averted. The Big Bad of the first film does just shoot Ting. It's a big surprise because by that point Ting has laid waste to so many of the guy's goons that we've forgotten that a gun would be a very quick solution to this problem. The two seem incredibly mismatched and we expect the fight to be over quickly, which it is; just not in the way we expect.
  • Wretched Hive: By and large the city is portrayed this way. Anyone living there has to morally compromise themselves just to survive, it's filled with various forms of criminals, conmen, and gangs, violence is rampant, and anything that spends long there is tarnished; Humlae was originally supposed to study to be a priest and instead became a petty criminal and grifter, Muay talks about going to school but seems to spend much more time running cons with Humlae, and simply being there forces Ting to go from Martial Pacifist to an increasingly brutal and lethal fighter to survive the wrath of crime boss with a petty grudge. Noticeably, the happy ending takes place with all the main characters back in Ting's remote village.

Alternative Title(s): Ong Bak The Thai Warrior