When 2003’s “Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior” hit theater screens across the globe, there was no question that it was a game changer for martial arts flicks and like “Enter the Dragon”, captivated audiences. Overnight, Tony Jaa shot to worldwide superstardom, with anyone and everyone who laid eyes on the film getting their expectations utterly blown out of the water!
In the years since its release, Tony Jaa would continue to amaze and astound viewers with his Muay Thai mastery in such acclaimed action hits as “Tom Yum Goong” 1 and 2, “Skin Trade”, “Furious 7”, and “SPL 2: A Time for Consequences”, and will soon be seen alongside a veritable dream team of fellow action stars in the upcoming martial arts ensemble, “Triple Threat”!
Tony also produced two prequels to his star-making hit, 2009’s “Ong Bak 2: The Beginning”, and 2010’s “Ong Bak 3”, bringing his boundless energy in kung fu and stunt prowess to work in each. Of course, having crafted the legend of “Ong Bak” into a trilogy of martial arts movie greatness can only mean it’s time for another countdown. So get your under armour on and brace yourself; knees and elbows will fly as we head on into these Top 10 Ong Bak Movie Fights…! (in descending order)
- Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior (2003) – Market Chase
- Ong Bak 3 (2010) – Tien vs Armed Soldiers
- Ong Bak 2: The Beginning – (2008) Tien vs Slave Traders
- Ong Bak 2: The Beginning – Tien vs Three Opponents
- Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior – Ting vs Saming
- Ong Bak 3 – Tien vs Lord Rajasena’s Army
- Ong Bak 3 – Tien vs Bhuti Sangkha (Crow Ghost)
- Ong Bak 2: The Beginning – Tien vs Masked Assassins
- Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior – Fight Club
Okay, this one isn’t strictly speaking a fight sequence, as our hero is primarily focused on fleeing his pursuers through the streets of Bangkok. However, the film puts the brakes on the chase aspect of this sequence long enough for ‘Ting’ (Tony Jaa) to kick a few butts in the flashiest way possible, something we hadn’t seen a huge amount of by this point in the film. It also gives us a taster of just how impressive Jaa’s Muay Thai skills are -of note, Jaa unleashed his parkour chase over a full year before “District 13” made the art of vaulting a worldwide phenomenon. The moment he leaps through a ring of barbed wire probably pinpointed for most the ‘take off’ point that “Ong Bak” was going to absolutely obliterate all expectations.
The keen observer will also notice the words “Hey Spielberg, let’s do it together” painted in the background as Ting battles off the baddies, a prophecy that’s yet to be fulfilled – let’s just cross our fingers that Tony will pop up in The Oasis in the inevitable sequel to “Ready Player One”!
“Ong Bak 3” is the most overtly Buddhist-themed chapter in the series, and you can see that crystal clear from Tien’s first fight (after rebuilding his body) in the film’s fantastic training montage. He casually swats away one adversary after another here; his demeanour, his composure, the flawlessness of both his horse stance and every technique he wields – isn’t from a man unleashing righteous, pent-up fury on his enemies, but rather a monk in a deep state of zen-like meditation, never breaking his laser-like focus which keeps his mind, body, and spirit united and working together.
Hit the pause button at almost any point here, and you’d have an image right out of a cave painting, especially when Tien pinballs his fists between two enemies to his left and his right. Of course, a little comic relief amid the more conscious zen-style action never hurt anyone, and “Ong Bak 3” serves that up palatably.
If you’d ever wondered what a Tony Jaa version of “Drunken Master” would’ve been like, you get your answer right here in Tien’s brutal dispatching of a gang of slave traders. You know the ‘disposal process’ is going to be quite a visceral experience when it literally kicks off with our hero grabbing his enemy by the Adam’s apple before fish hooking his cheek open! Additionally, while “Ong Bak 2” had already established Tien as a consummate master of a wide range of different martial art disciplines, this is where you first get to see him bring them all together in a single, unified method of combat – all whilst more than a little tipsy, no less!
Hundreds of years before the rise of MMA as we know it, Tien espoused the same eclectic philosophy as Bruce Lee, absorbing all that he found useful, discarding what wasn’t and crafting a way of fighting distinctly his own. The first big set piece of “Ong Bak 2” is as much a training sequence as a fight scene, with Tien displaying his decades’ of training in a wide variety of combat disciplines to prove himself worthy to lead the Pha Beek Khrut warriors. In the space of six-and-a-half minutes, we see Tony Jaa channel the exquisite swordsmanship of a Samurai, the yogic power of a Shaolin monk, and the grappling skills of Jiu-jitsu master, alongside the Muay Thai mastery we already know him for (to say nothing of the skills in Krabi Krabong, Silat, and Ninjutsu he breaks out elsewhere in the film). As with the original “Ong Bak”, Tony Jaa rises to the challenge to blow audiences away with something new, and “Ong Bak 2” certainly doesn’t disappoint.
After the tsunami of head-splitting Muay Thai mayhem that makes up the rest of “Ong Bak”, the finale puts the flashy stunts and parkour aside to let our hero and villain face-off mano-a-mano. Ting and Saming, played by Chattapong Pantana-Angkul, previously went head-to-head in a Muay Thai ring fight earlier in the film, which isn’t too shabby itself, but with Ting having been coerced into throwing the match, he and Saming are able to start off with a clean slate for the finale of the film. What’s really amazing about the end of “Ong Bak” (and that’s certainly saying something, talking about this movie) is not just how many genuine hits both combatants are really absorbing to sell the reality of the fight, but also how raw and basic it is in comparison to the rest of the film. Tony still utilizes some absolutely amazing elbow techniques not seen on film before this point, and talk about testimony to the power of good SFX; the sounds of Ting’s elbow strikes being reminiscent of tree branches being snapped!
Nowhere else in the Ong Bak series, or perhaps in his entire filmography, will you ever see Tony Jaa go this viciously bananas. Sure, we find out by the end that it’s all happening in our hero’s mind, but it works for the story. Tien has to master the art of self control to harness and channel his suppressed rage in the right way without allowing it to destroy him. (Something we might all learn something from.) We see him do exactly that right afterwards in the real-world final battle with the downright sinister Bhuti Sangkha, (‘Crow Ghost’) but the extent to which he cuts loose against a swarm of sword-wielding soldiers rivals “The Raid” movies for sheer ferocity – even ‘Mad Dog’ (played by Yayan Ruhian) never bit a chunk out of a guy’s neck (though that admittedly was probably only for lack of trying). However as mentioned above, Tien calms down considerably for the next entry on our list…
Tien’s final battle with the Crow Ghost, Bhuti Sangkha, stands in total contrast to his mental rampage of bloodthirsty insanity that came just moments beforehand. Whereas our hero was literally biting chunks out of his enemies and stomping their faces into the ground in his own head previously, he calms his mind and spirit for the final battle with his arch-enemy and fluidly deflects his attacks while seemingly expending zero energy himself. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt the finale of “Ong Bak 3” one bit that the uber-talented stuntman-actor Dan Chupong is the villain, as he throws everything plus the kitchen sink at Tien. On top of the Buddhist themes of the film, “Ong Bak 3” wraps up with what one might call a clash of Muay Titans.
There’s come a point in many martial arts films, and certainly those featuring Tony Jaa, where all hell just must break loose. You know what I’m talking about – the mall battle in “Police Story”, the cave fight in “Enter the Dragon”, Rama’s raid on the villain’s HQ in “The Raid 2”, it’s that point in the third act where it becomes clear that the film is going to be absolutely nothing but wall-to-wall action until the curtain comes down. In “Ong Bak 2”, we get that in spades with Tien’s one-man war against Lord Rajasena’s masked henchmen, coming at him in waves like AI-controlled opponents in a video game. And if you’d been longing to see Tony break out some tiger-style kung fu, it can truly be said that he unleashes the Eye of the Tiger here, in more ways than one. Fun fact: stuntman-turned action director extraordinaire Tim Man is one of Tony’s many foes here, and you’ll soon see them join forces again in the upcoming martial arts mega-ensemble, “Triple Threat”!
Yes, technically speaking, there are three individual battles here, but the whole set piece in the fight club falls under a singular mission for the humble, peasant villager Ting – not to mention the fact that each flows into the other so seamlessly that they essentially form a singular fight sequence. More importantly, while there’s been no shortage of amazing stunt work in the film to this point, “Ong Bak” has actually been relatively light on the Muay Thai action up until now.
This gives the moment where Ting buries the sole of his foot into his first opponent, Big Bear’s face that much more of a WOW! factor when it finally arrives. He follows up with a couple of fully extended kicks an elbow in between and the glorious knee-to-head “Hanuman Kham Loka (Hanuman Circles the World) strike. Of course, the film won’t allow Ting to just flatten one rude dude and walk off the mat, no sir. Our pacifistic hero is immediately forced to go head-to-head (or more accurately, elbow-to-head) with a show-boating spin-kicker (Toshiro) and a chair-swinging, bottle-smashing brawler named (Mad Dog, yep another one), played by David Ismalone.
…and in at #1 is…
Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior – Ting vs Komtuan’s Henchmen (Final Cave Fight)
When it gets started, it features one amazing action sequence after another, but the penultimate fight sequence of the film, in which Ting must battle his way past a group of Boss Komtaun’s villainous henchmen, embodies just about every amazing rewind moment of the entire film.
Starting things off with a stunt pulled right out of the market foot chase earlier in the film where Ting runs across his enemies’ shoulders to land a falling elbow strike on one unfortunate recipient, this is “Ong Bak” condensed into three minutes.
From the insane stunts of Tony jumping and flipping over anything in his path, to a series of tornado kicks that border on the physically impossible, this spectacular all out action-bonanza even sees Tony break out that much beloved show-stopper, the Guyver Kick for good measure. And in any fight sequence where a table saw is used as a melee weapon, you know there’s going to be pain galore for every participant here, something that Tony delivers with continued relentlessness all the way through to that poor fellow right at the end! For a movie that upped the ante and changed the game for modern martial arts flicks, we think this is a stunning example of elbow-bashing, knee-smashing Muay Thai madness, and grand finale of the Ong Bak series (to date that is…)
So there we have it folks, our list of the Top 10 fights from the Ong Bak trilogy! Which fights from the series scored a KO for you and if there was an Ong Bak 4, what would you most want to see? Let us know in the comments below, join in the conversation and share this with your friends on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Stay tuned for more news on Tony Jaa in “Triple Threat” and get your triple dose of FU from our other Top 10’s!