When a petty hood steals the head of a rural village’s religious icon, an orphan taken in by one of its attending monks sets off to the big city to recover it.
Like any of that matters. This film is all about the stunts and the lack of wire work and CGI give them a real brutal honesty and believability that marks it aside from many modern martial arts films. The Thai setting also gives it a cultural identity that differs from the usual Jackie Chan/Jet Li offerings, but it is this sense of national pride that often spills over into distasteful xenophobia. All of Tony Jaa’s opponents are foreigners and the film takes pains to point this out; the white fighters are nothing but bloodthirsty animals, and his drug-fuelled and corrupt nemesis – who during the ring fight is even announced to be fighting from the “western” corner – is Burmese.
The action sequences are brilliantly executed however and if you can ignore the shortcomings of the script it’s worth seeing for Tony Jaa’s formidable physical performance alone.