Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (Thailand, 2003, 101 min. dir: Prachya Pinkaew, cast: Panom Yeerum).
The “Science of Eight Limbs” is the essence of South East Asian kickboxing. To appreciate the beauty of Ong-Bak you must first understand what you are watching. The story of a stolen statue is only an excuse to display Muay Thai, the Thailand version of boxing.
Western boxing uses two points of contact: fists. Karate style boxing uses four: hands, feet. Nak Muays, the name for the boxers who fight with Muay Thai, use eight: hands, feet, elbows, and knees.
Head of a statue, the most precious possession of a small village is stolen by an unscrupulous businessman. Booting, or Ting (Panom Yeerum), a village boy and their champion fighter, is sent to Bangkok to retrieve it. Once he gets there he is forced to fight and fight the bad guys until he gets the statue back.
The innocent from the country against the city mob is not remarkable. But the stunts are stupendous.. There are many sequences, both fighting and chasing, that are daring, original, and breathtaking. The clip is of an extended chase through the city with the bad guys nipping at Ting’s heels.
Many chase elements are filmed in slow motion and choreographed like dances. What makes this even more complex to shoot is the flips, kicks, and amazing aerobatics. This can not be done in slo mo, so the camera needed to be over cranked for some parts of the sequence, and set at normal speed, 24 frames, for others. Watch how intricately everything is planned.
While you watch think that what you see is not just a Thai movie, it is the cinematic representation of a physical art form so ancient that the name for it comes from Sanskrit: the Indo-Aryan language of Hinduism and Buddhism that goes back 3500 years.