I've been waiting for a decent (realistic) martial arts film for a long time. When one finally came along, I almost missed it; seems the locals don't like subtitles, and the locals who'd understand the original audio have long since seen it on DVD. Plus I managed to be out of the country for most of its run.
It's martial arts movie plot #1: bad thing happens to boy's people/village/master/family member, boy goes to put things right, boy has to break a promise, a good guy dies, more bad guys die, boy returns successful but changed by the experience. There were references to drugs, prostitution, and it was made clear that foreigners were funding the (presumably illegal) fighting too, though nothing much was made of any of these points. I wish it had been clearer whether there's general Thai-Burmese antagonism, or if the Burmese character's specific nationality was irrelevant.
In between, there's some really great fighting. If you like knees and elbows in your fighting, you'll love this.
Elbow techniques have never struck me as being likely to be particularly useful offensively, because you have to be so close in. And I don't like close-in. Thanks to this film, I might finally be convinced that there's some use to a spinning elbow — if you can do it that well.
I can't wait to see more Tony Jaa (Panom Yeerum). May he live long and make as many films as Jackie Chan has. imdb says of him that he "went to university where he studied a variety of martial arts, from taekwondo to judo". (Presumably he didn't major in martial arts?) It would be great to see plot excuses for him to use a different style in each film.
10/10. The fights come thick and fast, and they're great.