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ONG BAK 2 (Thailand)

  Publicity Stills of "Ong Bak 2"
(Courtesy of Shaw)

Genre: Action/Martial Arts
Director: Tony Jaa
Cast: "Tony Jaa" Panom Yeerum, Primrata Dej-Udom, Sorapong Chatree, Saranyu Wongkrajang, Santisuk Promsiri, Pattama Pantong, Nirut Sirijanya, Petchtai Wongkhamlao, Supakorn Kijsuwan, "Dan" Chupong Changprung, Surachai Jantimatorn, Akaradej Rodwinij, Teacher Phillip, Cheewin Achariyachai, Sakchai Jairasamee, Surin Suwattana, Nutdanai Kongtong, Prinyaporn Kramkiew
RunTime: 1 hr 37 mins
Released By: Shaw & InnoForm Media
Rating: NC-16 (Violence)

Opening Day: 8 January 2009


Prominent Thai actors are assembled to make this big budget project. Led by the veteran team of master martial arts choreographer, Panna Rittikrai who gained international fame from Ong Bak, Tom Yum Goong and Chocolate, audiences will see for the first time Tony Jaa’s newly developed fighting style that combines martial arts with ‘Khon’, a kind of Thai classical dance, originating before 1000AD.

In this film, Tony Jaa returns to his trademark style of ultimate fighting in several dangerous scenes: including the fight on the backs of tens of elephants and the fight with ancient weapons so fast, you can’t blink. The grand and gorgeous sets created are also expected to awe every audience.

The film tells the story of betrayal, revenge and the rebirth of a legend. It starts with the assassinations of Lord Sehadecho, the King’s loyal advisor and his wife, Lady Plai, by the treacherous Lord Rajasena, in front of Tien, the couple’s only son.

Tien managed to escape, with deep anger and vengeance in mind. Soon, Tien meets Chernang, the leader of the Garuda Wing militia, who raised Tien as his godson. Tien grows up studying not only martial arts, but also of explosives, magic spells and other guerilla strategies. Tien then sets out to seek revenge for his parents, only to be caught and severely tortured.

Fortunately, Tien was saved by Sage Bua, a Khon instructor whom he used to stay with when he was young. Sage Bua teaches Tien how to control his body and the power of a serene mind. Through the dharma puzzle hidden within Sage Bua’s teaching of Khon, an ancient Thai art, Tien finally discovers himself, as if he has been reborn.

With his newfound spirit, Tien combines his martial arts skills with the art of Khon, creating a new fighting technique so elegant but powerful like no one has seen before.

Movie Review:

At one point of Ong Bak 2 production, the filmmakers weren’t even sure if this film will be completed. The lead action star, Tony Jaa had some problem during the film production and he just simply left the film set to mediate in the jungle for a couple of months. The unexpected disappearance of Tony Jaa had caused several international distributors to pull out, in fears that the film would go over budget and unable to meet the scheduled deadline. Understandably, that would cause the producer and the other director to go into panic mode.

Lucky for them, Tony Jaa had thought it through during the forest time and return back to work (otherwise we wouldn’t be having this film right?). Facing a pressing deadline to complete it, the film makers came up with a “clever” idea that had been utilized frequently in films like Matrix, Kill Bill, Election and Red Cliff.

Obviously that idea would be to split the movie into 2 or more parts. Bear that in mind so you won’t be that shocked at the cliffhanger ending.

As a first part of an epic Thai movie, this film was lusciously shot in beautifully rich color and had plentiful exotic looking traditional costumes that one can’t help to feel that the subliminal message that this film is trying to send would be one that bears the approval from the Thailand tourism board. There’s even a traditional costumed dance scene that felt overly long for the story pacing but effective as a tourism hook for the non Thai viewers.

While this film focus on the cinematography, costumes and production set, the story aspect and fighting sequences took a back seat.

The story for Ong Bak 2 felt like it was just an excuse to get from one fighting sequences to another. It doesn’t even bother to present some simple details on how the Hero managed to plan a surprise attack on the Villain or how the Villain tired to seek revenge on the Hero. Most part of the plot basically advance Tony Jaa from one fight scene to another in the same manner as video games does for their story telling. Ironically, when the film tried to install emotions into the plot, it became a drag as it’s neither convincing nor given the enough time or skills to create the required sentiment.

The action sequences which generally are what people pay for in a Tony Jaa movie, was a mixed bag. There are still some splendid Tony Jaa’s trademark flying knee and elbow moments but other than that, there are a lot to nitpick.

First of all, it’s not as crisp and clear cut as the first Ong Bak. The actions here no longer feel like it’s entirely without the assistant of wires work or CGI. Then there are certain moments which the film made the mistake of going slow-mo as it revealed how certain Tony Jaa’s opponent are actually waiting to be hit by him. The fight sequences also made the mistake of having people standing around, waiting to get into a fight with Tony Jaa and that kind of fight scene mistake had already been pointed out by Jackie Chan long time ago.

There’s also the “homage” to the previous Kungfu classics and other fighting methods that didn’t really go well with this Thai action movie. Personally, I would prefer to watch more of Muay Thai Style of fighting in this Thai action movie than to see Tony Jaa mimic moments from Drunken Master (drunken fist) and Game of Death (multiple fights with various marital artists). It would be interesting to see how Tony Jaa uses Muay Thai style against the various martial arts but instead we get a chunk of Tony Jaa doing Chinese style of fighting which looked silly than impressive.

Overall Ong Bak 2 looked great visually but didn’t provide enough memorable fighting moments to hook viewers into the third part. It also make one wonder if they are going to do a movie that is not related to the first one, wouldn’t it be better to rename this two part movie so that the part 2 wouldn’t have to be name as part 3 instead?

Movie Rating:

(Great Thai Tourism board promo but rather unsatisfying presentation of Muay Thai fighting)

Review by Richard Lim Jr


. Chocolate (2008)

. Muay Thai Chaiya (2007)

. Tom Yum Goong (2005)

. Mercury Man DVD (2006)

. Dynamite Warrior VCD (2006)

. Born to Fight VCD (2005)


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