We’ll ignore the sequels to both movies as none of them were particularly good but the originals are awesome.
So today I thought I would take a look at both movies and see which one comes out as the champ.
Plot: In Thailand, the impoverished village of Ban Nong Pradu has its most precious Buddha statue stolen from the temple. Luckily the small town also has a very skilled fighter in the form of Ting (Tony Jaa), who sets out on a quest to recover the cherished figure. His journey leads him to Bangkok, where he must wrangle the statue from Don (Wannakit Sirioput), a volatile drug dealer. Meanwhile, the village is suffering a severe drought and needs the Buddha to restore vitality.
This was the movie that really put Tony on the map and a new martial arts hero was born; the story is straightforward but it’s just an excuse for Jaa to showcase his ass-kicking skills. It takes a little while for the action to kick in as the plot has to develop but once our hero Ting (Jaa) steps into fight for the first time you know it’s going to be special.
Known simply as Ting, Jaa gives the character an innocence and likability who is always reluctant to fight but is easily manipulated by Humlae (Petchtai Wongkamlao) who wants to use Ting’s fighting prowess to make some fast cash. Humlae is the son of one of the elders of Ban Nong Pradu but has turned his back on being ordained as a monk and seems to prefer getting beaten up by criminals and gambling. Ting’s determination to bring back Ong-Bak to its rightful place eventually rubs off on Humlae who sacrifices himself at the end for the greater good. Ting may lack a bit of personality but he feels believable and his sheer determination to complete his quest just helps to make it all the more authentic.
There are several villains in Ong-Bak like Don (Wannakit Sirioput) but the big bad is Komtuan (Suchao Pongwilai); a disabled gangster with a tracheotomy so he has to use a voice box to speak. He’s a particularly nasty piece of work who also tries to manipulate Ting. He’s never a physical threat to Ting though obviously as as a villain he’s quite generic and forgettable.
This is where Ong-Bak’s greatest strength lies; we have scenes of Ting fighting while his legs are on fire with Tony Jaa doing all of his own stunts and no CGI. There aren’t just fight scenes though as we get a thrilling taxi chase with some fantastic stunt-work. The second half of the movie has some truly breathtaking martial arts and and by the end of the film you’re pretty exhausted and wonder how Ting could possibly still be standing. The only thing which bothers me about the fights in this movie is the constant replaying of various punches and kicks which takes away a little of the intensity.
The scene below with Ting taking on an almost endless barrage of attackers is easily my favourite scene of the movie.
Plot: A young fighter named Kham (Tony Jaa) travels to Australia to retrieve stolen elephants that were promised originally to the king of Thailand. Once there, he enlists the aid of a Thai-born Australian detective to help him achieve his goal, and he uses his fierce Muay Thai moves to battle an evil woman’s gang of deadly bodyguards.
Ong-Bak is quite a small movie in terms of scale but The Protector feels like it has a bigger budget as it has a glossier look to it; like Ong-Bak the story or any kind of characterization is scarce but we’re not looking for lots of depth here, just ass-kicking galore of which there is plenty.
Where in Ong-Bak Ting is more naive about the world The Protector’s Kham is far more angry and isn’t afraid to beat the crap out of as many people as possible who have stolen his elephants. Seriously people, stop stealing Tony Jaa’s elephants! The story is pretty similar to Ong-Bak with Kham every bit as determined to get back what was stolen from him. This time the action is moved to Australia which may not be the best idea as now we get some ropey acting from the supporting cast. It doesn’t matter as Kham is a true hero in every sense and when he discovers that one of his elephants has already been killed he is rightfully devastated. Rage takes over and he goes into one man army mode; he is seemingly invincible and I’m still not sure how he survives jumping off a building at the end.
The Protector is almost a who’s who of martial arts stars with Jon Foo, Lateef Crowder, Johnny Nguyen and Nathan Jones all showing up to get a piece of Kham. Johnny Nguyen’s character is particularly nasty but it’s Nathan Jones who throws Kham about like he’s made of paper. The fights are brutal as Hell and the main villain Madame Rose (Xing Jin) is nice and hateful. She has a whip which she uses in the climactic fight against Kham but she at least dies a satisfying death of being kicked off a helicopter and falling to her doom.
For me at least this is where The Protector just destroys Ong-Bak; you’ve got a one take fight scene in a restaurant as Kham is hunting for Johnny and remains one of the best fight scenes I’ve seen in recent years. There are almost too many awesome fight scenes to mention but the fight between Tony and Lateef Crowder is one of my absolute favourites. The movie is tightly paced too and wastes no time with silly things like romance or memorable characters. The one take fight below is one of the all time greats…
I think Ong-Bak will be the movie that Tony Jaa will be remembered for and as a “pure” martial arts movies it may be the favourite with many fans but personally I’m for The Protector all the way. It’s just got tighter pacing and more exciting action with an awesome cast of fighters; I think the character of Kham is also better as he doesn’t hesitate to fight and feels tat bit more interesting. But don’t let my drunken ramblings sway you. Vote below for which movie you prefer.