Ong-Bak Muay Thai Warrior!

…saw this film at the Toronto Film Festival – its theatrical release schedule is uncertain, as it’s a Thai film (although was picked up by Luc Besson at Cannes). I’ve seen a zillion martial arts movies, and it’s not an understatement to state that this film is among the very best of them…ever.

The main guy uses Thai kick-boxing as a style, so lots of elbows and knees, but that’s pretty refreshing compared to the kung fu that dominates these movies. I don’t really like Wire Fu movies – to give you some context, I’d say that Fist of Legend and Drunken Master 2 are among my favourite films in the genre – and this one doesn’t feature wire-fu, and instead features some of the most brutal martial arts ever.

It also features a phenomenal new star in his youthful prime, unlike Jet Li and Jackie Chan (or even Bruce Lee) by the time they were discovered by North American audiences, and it’s by no means an overstatement to say that he’s in the same category as those guys. Amazing (saw it with Brett Todd, Bruce Geryk and Ron Dulin, who had similar praise for it, although perhaps not as over the top as mine).

Keep an eye out for it.

I loved it, too. I probably wasn’t as effusive as you because it was 3:15am when we got out of the theater and I could barely stagger down Yonge St. to the car let alone form coherent sentences.

Thai Warrior was a little overwhelming at times, and there was too much of a reliance on that flying elbow smash finishing move, but Panum Yeerum was fantastic in the lead role. Some of his moves were flat-out astonishing. He does this flip between panes of glass that has to be seen to be believed, manages to scrunch his way through the middle of a barbed-wire wreath, and he also hurdles cars. Yes, he really hurdles cars. I don’t know how that’s even humanly possible, but he did it, and the director swears no wires were used. The movie was also really well shot, with a great sense of style and humor. The knife scene during the big chase – the good guy sidekick grabs a knife to fend off a gang of bad guys, realizes he needs something bigger, so he grabs a cleaver, whereupon an old woman walks by yelling “Knives for sale!” and we then cut to a scene with a knife-laden gang chasing the sidekick down the street – was a hilarious riff on the famous Indiana Jones gun vs. sword moment in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Oh, and I also read online somewhere the other day that director/producer Prachya Pinkaew is starting on a sequel. Apparently that’s why he arrived late (the movie was delayed 40 minutes, presumably for his arrival) in Toronto for the screening last Saturday night.

It was pretty great.