I remember going to see Jackie Chan’s and Jet Li’s films before both became bankable action stars in the US. Their films have something in common with Woody Allen flicks. In most cases, if you go to the theater when I do — mostly matinees — you are probably going to be sharing the theater with only a few other people, and some of these realize early on that they made a mistake. Allen’s films are built around stunt dialog, just as Chan’s films are vehicles for his own prowess. I suspect these are also a bit like some of the dance flicks of the 40s and 50s. The plot, such as it is, is there just to set up the next set of choreography.
If you enjoyed the pre-Chris Tucker Chan movies, you should go to see Ong-bak . Don’t go expecting to see a masterpiece of Thai cinema. But if you enjoy the visceral thrill of seeing people do things that you didn’t think people could do, this is the movie for you. This is also probably a good way to see Muay Thai in the shiny version movie screens let you see a martial art.
At some point, it becomes a bit of overload, but it is saved by a few fight scenes and chase scenes that lead to the audience literally holding their breath. No CG, no wirework, both of which leave audiences nonplussed lately. Just Tony Jaa, doing the things Chan used to. Good stuff.