This Thai action pic - a vehicle for "new Bruce Lee" contender Tony Jaa - displays such untiring devotion to the smashing up of buildings, cars and the human body that you can't help but sit back and admire it. When the head of an Ong-Bak statue is stolen by urban troublemakers, country boy Ting is assigned to bring it back, employing such moves as "Strangling the Great Elephant" and - ahem - "Monkey Presents the Ring".
The city naturally turns out to be a den of vice, and Ting finds himself having to negotiate something that resembles a plot rather less than it does an obstacle course. Director Prachya Pinkaew throws everything he can at his star, often at the same time: an early highlight is a chase through a bustling market place forcing Jaa to jump over stalls, under cars and - literally - through hoops.
"JAA MOVES LIKE LIGHTNING"
With its sweatily convincing fight scenes, Ong-Bak is certainly less shoddy than the films that first made Lee's name in the West. None of that pretty-pretty wire work here: just plenty of knees to the groin and elbows crashing down on heads. Jaa doesn't have to act much, but moves like lightning through a succession of shrewdly varied bouts.
Around him, Pinkaew stages impressive carnage while leaving cheeky pleas around the set for bigger-name directors to get in touch. They probably won't, but it'll be out on DVD in a few weeks, and it'll feel more authentic over Friday night take-out than any Steven Seagal film.
In Thai with English subtitles.