Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior

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One of the most enjoyable action films I've seen in a while, this low-budget adventure from Thailand is being positioned as the international crossover for martial artist Tony Jaa. As a screen presence he's negligible, but in action he's something to see, hammering his opponents with well-aimed thigh kicks. The story that's been assembled around him is lovably old-fashioned: He plays a teenage orphan in a rural village whose people still revere Ong-Bak, a giant Buddha statue left over from a war with the Burmese 200 years earlier. A former villager absconds with the Buddha's head, and Jaa is dispatched to rescue it, a mission that forces him to become a professional boxer and draws him into conflict with a paraplegic mob boss (Suchao Pongwilai) whose electronic voice box generates an irritating whine whenever he speaks. At 100 minutes this overstays its welcome, but for mindless thrills you could do worse. Prachya Pinkaew directed. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Chatham 14, Ford City, Lawndale, North Riverside, River East 21, 62nd & Western, Webster Place.

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