Damian De Montemas
Thai martial arts spectacular
Trivia Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinnawat personally attended the premier of this movie in Bangkok, Thailand.
The film took two years to make and used more than 600 rolls of film.
Contains one of the longest no-cut fight scenes in movie history: the fight up floor after floor lasted four-plus minutes.
The international rights of the film were sold before it even started shooting. This is first Thai film to have done so.
First time ever an elephant walked on Sydney Harbor Bridge.
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Warrior King (2005)
10th Oct 06
Tony Jaa heads to Australia to rescue a couple of elephants and beats loads of people up along the way.
Anyone who’s interested in martial arts movies has at some point in the last year or two had that conversation about Tony Jaa. How good is he? Is he the next Jet Li? Or is he the next Jackie Chan? Or, if you’ll excuse what many people would consider pure blasphemy, is he the next Bruce Lee? Or rather, is he just the next Jean-Claude Van Damme? I mean come on; Van Damme did have his first title role in Blood Sport, which was a wicked action movie starring an unknown that featured an underground tournament of martial arts and was extremely well received on its initial release, a bit like Ong-Bak. Yeah, okay, I'm stretching that a bit, Blood Sport is a bit rubbish I know, but I've always had a soft spot for it. You know what I mean.
Anyway, let’s move on to the plot of Tony Jaa’s new movie Warrior King (if, of course, you discount his brief but electric cameo in The Bodyguard). This shouldn’t take very long. Do you remember the plot in Ong-Bak? It goes like this; rural Muay Thai expert heads to the big city in search of something that’s been stolen, fights a load of people, gets help from a chubby comedy sidekick and pisses off a criminal underworld boss type person, thus setting up a final battle with the best bad guys the boss can afford, which of course he wins and heads home with the stolen thing recovered, The End. The irony though, is that Warrior King has almost exactly the same plot; in the case of Ong-Bak the stolen thing was a huge stone statue’s head and the big city was Bangkok, and the only difference between that and this movie is that here the stolen thing is a couple of elephants and the city in question is Sydney, Australia.
But is that a bad thing? Well let’s face it, not necessarily. Nobody is going to see a Tony Jaa film to watch moving character driven cinema that tugs at your emotional heart strings. Nobody is going to see a Tony Jaa film for its beautiful cinematography or stunning art direction. What you go to see a Tony Jaa film for is the fights, and in that respect Warrior King delivers in spades.
Admittedly, the start is slow. It involves a young Tony (or rather an actor that looks like him as a boy obviously) growing up in beautiful rural Thailand and his loving relationship with the family elephants. There are shots of them walking, shots of them playing in the water and shots of the bigger elephant carrying the sleeping young Tony home again on his tusks which are bound to bring a tear to your eye. Then, as is the way with these things, the young Tony is replaced by the real deal Tony mid-montage, and you know there’s peril going to happen soon, which Tony is going to have to sort out. The peril comes from several run-ins with a bunch of ivory poachers, the last of which culminates in Tony’s father being shot and both elephants being kidnapped. After a bit of investigation the hard way, Tony soon discovers that they’ve been smuggled out to Sydney, and so heads of on a quest to free them.
And from here on in the movie kicks ass. Tony goes from scene to scene showing off all his Muay Thai skills to great effect, beating the crap out of progressively better bad guys all the way to that the crazy set piece ending, but along the way there are loads of cool scenes that we must mention. After the brief Jackie Chan cameo at the airport (how cool is that?) Tony interrupts a drug deal and takes out a load of guys who fight on BMXs and roller blades. How I’m not sure, but I’m hoping we see more extreme sports martial arts in the future. Then it’s on to the famous four minute continuous edit sequence (no cuts, just some guy with a steady cam following Tony through 4 floors of action in big Thai restaurant) which has to be seen to be believed. Thrown in later is that classic martial arts cliché of ‘hero fighting guy with style he’s not familiar with’, which this time is a master of that Brazilian dance martial arts hybrid known as capoeira, followed by that other classic cliché of ‘hero fights guy that’s nearly twice his size’ with the guest appearance of famous ex-American wrestler from Australia, Nathan Jones. Last seen as the huge guy that Brad pit wastes in one stab to the neck in Troy, Nathan Jones is a goliath of a man and towers over little Tony in the same way that Kareem Adbul-Jabbar towered over Bruce in Game of Death, all those years ago. Let’s just say it’s a close fight, but you can probably guess who wins.
And that’s pretty much all you need to know about Warrior King. The fights are better than in Ong-Bak in the sense that Tony doesn’t seem to rely on the ‘flying elbow to the head’ as much and tends to improvise a lot more (like he’s been watching early Jackie Chan films). Petchtai Wongkamlao is back as his sidekick, in pretty much the same role as George in Ong-Bak (or Humlae, or Dirty Balls depending on which regional version you have), and he gets all the laughs again but he deserves them. And the stunts are still as mad as ever; I mean, how many films have you seen when at one point a baby elephant is thrown through a window?
No wires, no stunt doubles? Brilliant. See this one as soon as you can, and get excited about this team’s next movie – filming now – which is apparently going to do for sword based fighting what this and Ong-Bak did for bare knuckle fighting. It’s called Sword, which is a bit of a clue…
Versions Available courtesy of Premiere Asia in the UK as of October 30th. We recommend you buy it.
Disc One Widescreen feature presentation
Thai Dolby Digital 5.1
optional English subtitles
Disc Two On The Press Trail (with Tony Jaa)
interview gallery (Tony Jaa, Petchtai Wongkamlao, Bongkoj Khongmalai, director Prachya Pinkaew, stunt co-ordinator Panna Rittikra)
Revolution Uprising – pre-production action
A Different Line – multi-angle sequence
Making the Warrior – cast and crew interviews
original theatrical teaser
original theatrical trailer 1
original theatrical trailer 2
UK theatrical teaser
UK theatrical trailer