In the early 70’s before wire tricks and CGI graphics audiences where introduced to the pure athleticism of martial artists like Bruce Lee (and the countless anonymous stunt men as well). While films like The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon have reintroduced Asian cinema to audiences, they lacked the athletic feats of those early movies. Ong Bak is a Thai production that takes the martial arts movie back to its roots, with elements of the Big Boss, Enter the Dragon amongst the earlier films a debt, but also brings its own style.
The film addresses current themes in Thai society, the tussle between their own culture and western influences, religion, the draw of the city to rural communities, drug addiction and the seedier side of Bangkok’s nightlife.
Tony Jaa is a very athletic star with the skill of Jet Li. The film feels very different also because of the combat style, Muay thai is a more brutal functional fighting style than kung fu and so doesn’t have the cinematic flair, but still impresses. I would recommend that you get to see Ong Bak if you have the chance.