June 04, 2010
Whenever we post about martial-arts movies (or when Phil posts about Kill Bill) we get a few kneejerk criticisms for being sympathetic to—or at least tolerant of—representations of violence on the screen. There's a pretty basic formula for these films—flying kicks and extraordinary violence cut with shots of meditative practice or scenic recapitulations of spiritual lessons from the protagonist's early years with the master (remember Kung Fu?). Video games, too: I posted about the Karmapa's use of violent video games as "emotional therapy" and plenty found that practice pretty distasteful. So when I heard that Thai martial-arts actor Tony Jaa of Ong Bak fame had shaved his head, hopped on an elephant and ridden off to the monastery to take his monk's vows, I thought skeptics might take heart. But it may be he's on the corporate lam: after Ong Bak 3's flop, some speculate Jaa will literally sit out the rest of his 10-year contract with the production company. I like to think, though, that he's taking a flying kick at enlightenment.