on 4 November 2006
While the fights in this follow up to Ong Bak are for the most part as awe inspiring as its predecessor the rest of the movie doesn't live up to expectations. The plot is laughable and pretty much exactly the same as Ong Bak; elephants go missing from town so Tony Jaa is sent to big city (this time Sydney) to bring them back. A big problem with this film is that the makers have made the same mistake I've seen in numerous other modern Asian films which is to try and incorporate English dialogue to make it more accessible to the international audience. This unfortunately means you get English speaking actors who can't act to save their lives and Thai actors concentrating more on speaking properly than giving a decent performance. Luckily the fights scenes save this movie from being a complete failure though. They are some of the best you'll see today and highlights are a fight in a warehouse against a gang of skaters and a beautifully shot single take fight up 3 floors.
Usually when I watch an action movie I don't expect much from the whole plot/acting side of things but when it starts to interrupt the whole enjoyment of the movie I find it hard to be forgiving. So to conclude this is an incoherent mess with an absurd plot and poor acting but some bloody good action. Although Tony Jaa is still a long way off of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li status in terms of screen presence, his martial arts skills are some of the best and most entertaining you'll see today.
After the jaw-droppingly impressive array of he-must-be-out-of-his-****ing-mind stunts in Ong-Bak, Tony Jaa's follow-up Warrior King (released in a heavily cut version in the USA as The Protector) is something of a disappointment. You can see where the time and effort have been put into the stunts, many of which are more impressive on paper than onscreen, but it never quite pays off proportionately. A big part of this comes down to the fact that the characters are poorly integrated into the action while the plot is a mess even by Asian action standards (imagine a cross between Tarzan in New York and The Freshman), not helped by the casting of some of Australia's worst and most effeminately-voiced actors in the supporting roles. Still, the four-minute single-take restaurant fight up several floors is VERY impressive and there aren't many movies where the villains throw an elephant at the hero...
on 25 June 2007
Tony Jaa is an extremely talented martial artist and this fact hits you in the face (metaphorically) in the stunning action setpieces in this film. I think Western audiences are too convinced that good fight sequences can only be achieved by wires and computer graphics, but as Warrior King shows, this is definitely not the case.
Tony Jaa takes months to come up with sequences and practises, practises, practises them to make them look intensely real on screen. You have to feel incredibly sorry for the stuntmen who only get 5 seconds on film just to have their arm convincingly broken in 12 places(!) And unlike, most films, where the choreography is mainly based around one style of martial art throughout the whole film, Warrior King (and its predecessor, Ong-Bak) highlight the varied combat forms that exist throughout the world and basically put these fighters up against each other - hence live-action Tekken! Although, of course, Muay Thai has to win out!
However, I did only give this film 3 stars because although, the fight scenes define the movie, it is technically a movie first and I was quite disappointed with the story, dialogue and characterisation.
The story is pretty much the same as Ong-Bak with a naive Thai man having to go to the city to rescue something and on the way beat up hundreds of villains to reclaim what was stolen. I would have forgiven the plot were it not for the fact that the dialogue between characters really is not slick, mostly due to the fact that there are 3 different languages being used in the film (Thai, Mandarin and English) and as none of the characters share a common tongue, having to rely on the subtitles all the time ruin the movie. Furthermore, unlike Ong-Bak, you do not see any development of the characters as the film goes on: Tony's character simply repeats himself each time with "Where's my elephants?" and then beats up every obvious villain in the shot; the comic relief provided by, once again, Phettahi Wongkhamlao, is not great because his character is more of a "go-between" between the Thai and English characters, therefore he cannot be as funny as he can be; and the villains are just your typical one-sided comic book bad guys. They may not say cliched lines as often, but they still act like them.
Out of the whole film, there are probably just about 5 scenes which are really great watching, but they just don't last long enough, and there is quite a lot of film to get through before the key action. People who loved Ong-Bak, like myself, will be disappointed and as a stand-alone action film, it may be too incoherent for general consumption. But for some real high-kicking, bone-crunching, visceral-tearing, mind-stupefying action sequences it really does show off. Look at it this way: Bruce Lee's Game of Death, technically, was a long film with only a few cool fights, and that became classic...
I bought Warrior King after being blown away watching Ong-Bak. Tony Jaa is quite something but unfortunately even he cannot save this film from mediocrity with his performance. The plot is similar to Ong-Bak, only this time a peaceful Thai boys elephants are stolen so he heads for Sydney to get them back. In Ong-Bak the simplistic plot was just an excuse for some spectacular fight scenes which is also the case here, but unfortunately the script is so bad that it becomes difficult viewing pretty early on.
The tubby sidekick from Ong-Bak returns as, you guessed it, a tubby sidekick. In Ong-bak he was mildly amusing but he struggles with English lines in Warrior King, speaking Thai only half the time for some reason. This isn't his fault but the directors. I don't know why because his English is so bad you can't take him seriously. Similarly, the pointless news breaks are read in broken English. The whole trip to Australia was a pointless attempt to Westernise the brilliant Ong-Bak. It would have been far better to keep the tale within Thailand and keep the script in Thai. That said, the action is what most people will watch this for. Jaa throws himself into some ever impressive scraps, breaking bones in his own spectacular and brutal way. The stunts are unbeliveable and Jaa rescues this from being rubbish. With better direction, this could have been a belter.
Like this? Try: Ong-Bak
on 25 August 2006
One of my favourite films from last year was Ong Bak. A welcome shot of wire free, no cgi martial arts that left me giddy with excitement during and after I'd seen it. Needless to say that the star, Tony Jaa, had been working on another film which I'd been keeping tabs on for when it would arrive over here. It was a film from Thailand and subtitled to boot and because of this was only available on limited release over here in the UK.
The movie started and in many ways it was quite poor. The acting from some people, the story, some of the dubbing and the way that things had been dreamt up that would look good in a set piece but no explanation given as to why they would be there. Some of the graininess on the film was so shocking, particularly in the fire/water fight scene, that it could have been filmed on a mobile phone. You could tell the film wanted to be a western one or at least appeal to the western audience and had it's share of flashy camera movements and quick editing which I did get a little concerned at. I don't mind some of the flashy stuff but I was worried that I might not be able to see some of the fight moves. The story didn't have a lot of cohesion or explanation and was shot on some of the grainiest stock I've ever seen but after a time you didn't really mind. What it had was imagination and energy. It spent a lot of time showcasing the elephants which then paid off near the end and explained why Tony reacted as he did.
It wasn't your staid Hollywood film that follows a series of tick boxes and although a little jumbled and chaotic, it was it's energy that dragged you along with it. When the fight scenes started you couldn't help but gasp out loud, maybe put together a little clap or even just quietly mouth obscenities. The fights in Ong Bak are excellent and I did wonder if they could be improved upon and amazingly they were. The first major fight in this bus/tram warehouse had some amazing stunts but still didn't catch fire for me. The next was this continuous four-five minute shot as Tony worked his way up this circular staircase dispatching goons at every opportunity. By the time he got to the top you could see his was completely knackered but it was still amazing.
The best fights though were the ones where he was upset. Then he was fighting angry and you could see the rage coming through in his fighting. There are so many martial arts films where the hero talks about his combat skills only being a form of defense and he seems to just parry blows and push others away. In this one though, and certainly at the end fight which seems to last for about 15 minutes, he fought annoyed and intent on causing some serious damage. This is the kind of fighting I've always wanted to see. A fighter who has had something taken from him and is so enraged he wants to take it out on everyone else. Tony goes through this troop of bad guys snapping arms, knees and any other bones he can think of in mind boggling, wonderful style. The moves are breathtaking and so inventive. I couldn't stop giggling in a mixture of shock and awe. He really gave the impression that he was dangerous and you felt like you wouldn't want to enter his body zone for fear of coming out with a dislocated shoulder and your arm broken in three places. The film even managed to inject some x-ray style footage of bones breaking and snapping.
You've got to hand it to the main lead. He researched the ancient art of Muay Thai for Ong Bak and in this film even went some way to invent a new style which related to the elephants (ie breaking, stomping etc). He is incredibly athletic, creative and does possess some emotional range. When he is torn apart by the death of those close to him you can really see it and the rage that the sorrow creates is unleashed in a wave of bone crunching fury. I hope he goes from strength to strength, getting more fame and bigger budgets. One can only hope that a Hollywood studio doesn't get hold of him and water down his style and impact to the insipid level that it did with Jet Li in Lethal Weapon 4. Considering this is only his second major film (take a look at Chan, Li and Van Damme's early films) I think he has a very promising future and one that he richly deserves.
Such an entertaining film. When I left the cinema I felt exactly like I had after Ong Bak. Tingling, breathless and light headed from what I'd seen. OK the makers might have chucked just about everything in the film to push it along but in a way I respect them for doing their utmost to entertain the audience. Like I said before in this age of sanitised films where studios are wary of taking chances and want to put everything into the trailer this was a really welcome blast of exuberant film-making that dazzled, enthralled and exhilarated me.
on 12 March 2008
Anybody who enjoyed the magnificent Ong-bak will know exactly what they're getting here.
A paper-thin plot, terrible dialogue (Tony Jaa says little other than "where are my elephants?"), and an ending that very nearly ruins the film, but........
The fight/action scenes, choreography and stunt work are simply amazing. There's one particular scene involving a 4 minute take (complete with a few mistakes and a visibly knackered Tony Jaa) that is jaw dropping. Throughout this film the fighting is so brutal and accurate you get the impression that people are really getting hurt (they probably did!)
Tony Jaa is fast becomming THE martial arts star. If you enjoyed any film starring Jackie Chan or Jet Li then you'll enjoy this.
on 27 June 2007
The plot is some instantly forgettable nonsense concerning Tony Jaa's character's efforts to find and win back his two beloved elephant friends when they are stolen and smuggled abroad.
But then, who watches a chop-socky film for the plot? Chances are that anyone reading this has seen the Bruce Lee classic `Enter the Dragon', and enjoyed it thoroughly, with very good reason. However, can you remember the storyline? Me neither. In this tradition, the gist of the tale in Warrior King is an excuse to set up a series of set-pieces where Jaa gets to beat a video game procession of incrementally tough baddies. Some of these baddies are so generic I'm pretty certain I took them on myself playing the arcade game Double Dragon, way back in the early nineties or whenever it was.
But what set-pieces Warrior King delivers. The curse of any studio making a film like this is that its fight scenes will always be compared to those of chop-socky films that have come before it. The challenge, presumably, is always to go one better. I don't watch that many martial arts films, so I don't know if Warrior King comes out ahead of its most recent competitors. However, I do know that this film's most extravagant fight scenarios are amazing in their own right. As the Amazon synopsis points out, a single-take fight scene, which proceeds up a spiral staircase that winds around a large, open atrium, is as stunning in terms of camera-work as it is kung-fu prowess. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say it's one of the most technically impressive pieces of cinema I've ever seen.
Tony Jaa's style is more like Jackie Chan's than Bruce Lee's to my mind, in that scenery objects are often used very inventively. Having said that, there's none of the genuinely charming slapstick that Chan injects into his fights. Warrior King's combat is far more visceral and destructive. The foley men and women must have had a field day doing the sound effects for this film; every other blow inflicted is accompanied by the sickening twist of torn ligaments or shattering bone.
If this film were rated on kung-fu ability and other acrobatic showboating alone, you'd have to be pretty ruthless to give it less than the full five stars. However, there's more to life than kicking people in the face, no matter how balletically it's done. I started this review by saying a storyline doesn't matter to a film like Warrior King, but you're only thinking that when the battles are in full flow. Perhaps a goal of the big martial arts studios should be to make a chop-socky film with a genuinely memorable and worthwhile plot. Something a little more substantial than an excuse to parade nameless villains before the hero to be beaten up, at least. In this resepct, Warrior King merely tows the line of what has come before. Watch and love the sumptuous fight scenes, but don't give the plot, or, heaven forbid, the moral of the story, the time of day.
on 14 November 2013
You've had a long week at work, your supervisors grilling you, your workmates are grinding your gears.. Then you get to friday night. Alast! All you want to do is chug on a beer and watch people get seven shades kicked out of them. Look no further than Warrior King. Let's face it, nobody watches a Martial Arts film for a deep complex plot or a script involving love triangles and all that chick flick malarkey! This is a man's night in, leave the missus in bed. Yes, previous reviews state this doesn't exactly have an intriguing plot and the voice acting isn't great.. but you can always watch it in all its glory.. In thai with english subs, because as soon as you see that first fight scene where Jaa's bombing into his opponents wedding party without a silly thing such as gravity restricting him, your not gonna be paying the slightest bit of attention to the script. No CGI. No stunt doubles. Just pure uncut martial art genius. And Jaa is just showing off his stuff with the scene involving one camera shot that has already been mentioned. It goes to show how films should be made without hidden wires and props. Jaa looks like hes fit to drop after that one scene, yet he doesn't stop there. Another fight follows simultaneously as it seems to do throughout the film. Forget the plot, forget the script. Pay attention to the detail and you'll feel all the more for it.
on 11 October 2006
Lets be honest yes we do like a story line and good acting and yes this film does involve both, no oscars will be awarded but thats not saying the acting is poor. The acting and plot is clouded over by the sheer brilliance of the fight scenes! I love martial art films and have not been this amazed since seeing Enter the Dragon for the first time when i was 10. The fight scenes are unexplainable and for me there is currently no rival in existence to some of the fight scenes in this film. Vastly entertaining and will be added to my collection as soon as possible!!!
on 18 June 2010
Forget everything else. Jet Li Jackie Chan and dare i say it......Bruce Lee....Ha Ha only kidding i would never diss the master. But seriously this Jaa character is raising the bar for martial cinema so high that noone can possibly hope to compete. He really is something special...something else. Warrior king elevates him to God like status. What he does in this film is super human and its all there to see. No CGI no wires just pure skill again and again and again in a relentless series of set-pieces that feature awe inspiring physical antics and bone crushing thai martial arts. Witness his lithe physique slip between impossible gaps in single shot,fluid sequences. Marvel at the one take massacre in the bad guys multi level hideout. Hitchcock would have choked on his charute. See the legend before he goes soft in the middle with success. Unbelievable!!! Thanx.