Fans of Ong Bak: Muay Thai Warrior and The Protector, it’s time to knot your black-belts on once again – Tony Jaa, the face of Thai cinema, is back for round two (this time as a co-director and writer). The connoisseur of ancient Thai boxing will drop jaws with his unconditional range of stunts (and his fabulous set of abs) in this follow up to the 2003 predecessor.
Read the review below…
- Directors/Writers: Tony Jaa & Panna Rittikrai
- Cast: Tony Jaa, Primatra Dej-Udom, Sorapong Chatree
- Cinematography: Nattawut Kittkhum
- Art Direction: Banpot Ngamkhan
Martial Arts phenomenon Tony Jaa is kicking ass and taking names once again with Ong Bak 2: The Beginning. Destined to avenge the death of his parents and prophesized to conquer an empire, Jaa’s character, Tien, slowly transforms into a one-man-army of death by the bandits who so generously trained him. Will he actually be able to butcher every living organism that stands in his way? (spoiler: yes!)
- The Action: It’s plausible to argue that the majority of this film is an illuminating showcase of Tony Jaa’s sickeningly bad-ass martial arts skills. There’s roughly ten minutes of tape that doesn’t feature him attacking someone with his own stunts (sans special-effects! What??) Usually, when the bulk of a movie rests on action-sequences or fight scenes, the shine fades, and the “sick moves” seem a bit redundant by the time the credits begin to roll. But in the case of Ong Bak 2, the audience is hooked from start to finish – (the opening scene is Jaa tackling an ALLIGATOR with his bare-hands). While his character is trained in countless styles of weaponry, there are no guns/bombs/ explosions – his most effective and lethal weapon is his body. In 21st cinema, that is a rarity.
- Visual Effects: In about three minutes I’m going to knock some of the editing choices, but this does merit recognition. Usually I would be 100% grossed out by this, but the visual effects, at times, mirrored that of a video game – and it worked! There’s a slight glow in the color pallet during some of the digitally enhanced fight scenes, creating an almost mythical image. This reinforced the “epic” vibe of the film without making it seem artificial or deflecting the naturalness of the ancient form of fighting.
- The Plot: This is questionable. Yes, there’s a story-line, Tien is salty because someone slaughtered his parents, now he’ll spend the rest of his life preparing to annihilate their killers. It’s simple, and usually the quintessential premise of most martial arts films (less about a complex plot and more about epic battles) – which is fine. However, the poorly placed flashbacks, the random cuts, the overall attempt by the filmmakers to tell their story in a conceivably more interesting fashion was messy and unnecessary. Tony Jaa kicking ass for two hours was stimulating enough – cutting this movie into a collection of artsy puzzle pieces strengthened nothing. Excess, excess, excess!
- Cheese-Factor: Yes, this film is saturated with melodramatics and entirely predictable story direction. The horrific facial expressions and surprise “ahhh” moments will surely elicit laughter – but that’s expected, right? It’s Tony Jaa.
Despite my preconceived bad anticipation of this piece, Ong Bak 2: The Beginning falsified my hypothesis. It was gnarly. If you are expecting an Oscar quality film, spend your money elsewhere. This is one of those movies that needs to be taken for what it is – cheesy, but entertaining. And hey, who isn’t down for those types of movies every once in a while?
Ong Bak 2: The Beginning hits theaters on October 23rd.