Ong Bak: The beginning, Tony Jaa, Panna Rittikrai, 98 mins, (15)

Starring Tony Jaa, Sorapong Chatree
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The Independent Culture

The gymnastic flips and feints of leading man Tony Jaa are the reason, actually the only reason, to see this Thai revenge epic.

Jaa plays Tien, an orphaned nobleman in ancient Thailand who is rescued by a guerrilla army and trained into a chopsocky warrior, though given his early success in wrestling a crocodile he hasn't much to learn about courage.

The dialogue makes most comic strips sound like Shakespeare, and the acting, at least among the villains, is set to pantomime mode. No matter. These are mere filler before the main event, namely the quicksilver fists and springy feet of Jaa, who naturally does all his own stunts (there's a terrific sequence where he makes use of an elephant's tusks). At times it resembles a gigantic bar-room brawl, only in the jungle. The energy is intense, the athleticism is wild, the overall effect – pretty monotonous.