"Proper martial arts film - it's the hard, raw, kick ass ma film we have been waiting for since the days of Bruce Lee."
Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior 2
Tony Jaa, Panna Rittikrai
Writer: Panna Rittikrai
Cast: Tony Jaa, Janista Choochuaisuwan, Tim Man, Patthama Panthong, Nirut Sirichanya, Pongpat Wachirabunjong
Plot: A young man in the Ayutthaya period grows up among villagers who preserve the legacy of the traditional khon masked dance. He becomes an outcast when he finds that his firm limbs weren’t made to pursue the specialty of his ancestors, but with the advice of a mysterious guru he’s able to develop a new style of fighting which mixes the strength of martial arts with the regal elegance of khon dance. Then he’s ready to go out and fight the enemy.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
NINGEN'S REVIEW: Aspiring to be a prequel to the original Tony Jaa action-adventure flick, Ong Bak 2 decides to go back six hundred years before the setting in Ong Bak 1. In OB2, Jaa plays Tien, the son of a village chief trying to stand up against the imperialistic Evil Overlord, er, Rajasena. Rajasena killed Tien's parents and wiped out his village when Tien was a child. Tien survived by seeking refuge with a group of bandits versed in the martial arts. Tien then seeks the bandits' training, in order to get his revenge on Rajasena.
While the first Ong Bak was a semi-tribute to Jackie Chan movies and a basic man-on-the-run film, the director of the sequel apparently decided he needed to go Hollywood with this one. So in Ong Bak 2, you have to endure pointless Bay-style slow-mo pans combined with pseudo-Enya music, unnecessary and frequent flashbacks which don't really add anything new to the main story, a childhood friend who becomes a love interest to Tien for no reason, and a tenuous and disappointing connection to the original film, a la George Lucas with Star Wars I-III. So what should be a fast-paced action movie ends up feeling a lot longer than its 90 minute running time would suggest.
And while there are fight scenes, they don't very show up often until the end of the movie. Plus, by then, the fights get really boring really fast. The choreography itself is a bi-polar mix of regular martial arts and wannabe-MMA bloodbaths consisting of groups of thugs over-powering Tien in numbers, more than skill.
Meanwhile, the story's a pain in the ass, since it gets my hopes up, and then wastes my time with a Mondo Cane-style tour of Thailand which probably does more to hurt the peninsula's image than help any tourist bureaus. Yeah, I know Ong Bak 2 takes place in a different century, but I don't think scenes of the locals eating animal eyeballs will encourage casual viewers to order Thai food any time soon. And I was bored enough with the pointless dance numbers in Flying Daggers. So I don't need them being used in place of character development and tension in this film. Plus, I can experience that form of performance art for free in a National Geographic documentary. So why do I want to pay to sit through it in an action movie?
But I think what really pisses me off is the way the movie goads me into believing that Tien can and will save the day. I won't mention any spoilers, but after the build-up, the plot suddenly throws in some cheap twists near the end. These sudden developments don't come off surprising as much as forced. And by the time you're done with the story, you'll wonder if you reached one of those "alternate" endings in a video game you were supposed to play "correctly" to get to the real conclusion. But either way, with Ong's Bak 2 paper-thin writing and uninspired fights, you'll lose.
NINGEN'S RATING: "Elephant-fu" 8/10; Regular fights 6.5/10; Story 4/10; Final score 5.5/10
KIOKO'S REVIEW: My last review of Tony Jaa's Tom Yum Goong rated a 10/10.
The title of the best martial artist on film has been handed over to Tony Jaa.
Everything I said then about Jaa rings even more true NOW with his latest release of Ong Bak 2. This is his directorial debut and you can see such a difference with his last films and this one. Specifically, the other films had an observant, tripod, watch-the-stunts-on-film feel to it. Much like all of Jackie Chan's films. In Ong Bak 2, Jaa shows style, visuals, flashbacks, themes, he shows it all. Everything you see on the screen has a purpose.
The story has a similar theme, young boy trained in the martial arts. But this film adds a Soap opera feel to it, keeping you involved in the story as it is revealed to you parts at a time. And involves the history and motivations of not just the main actor, but the supporting actors and villains as well. And it doesn't drag.
There is no one who can touch Jaa. The actions is SPECTACULAR! Of 90 minutes. There is 30 minutes story, 60 minutes action. He shows the martial arts on film in a way not seen since Chang Cheh and Shaw Brothers film of the 70s. There is even a 11-second one take fight scene. Over 10 different weapons, 8 different styles you can see he poured his heart into this one. Grouping a few scenes together, I'd even say it is borderline X-Rated violence. Definitely R.
If there were any debates that Jet or Jackie was the next Bruce Lee. Then you gotta give Jaa his props. He pays an homage to Jackie Chan's drunken master and crushes Chan's performance. One scene that impressed me was his Kung Fu Fist and Muy Thai fist vs 2 opponents. He switches styles back and forth throughout the fight.
Other elements, the music score is really fitting. Head banging right along with the action. Even the Koon dance, that I thought would be a drag, they scored it just right and was great to see. Cinematography, thankfully, the camera pulls back and doesn't chop up the acting or the fighting.
Proper martial arts film - it's the hard, raw, kick ass ma film we have been waiting for since the days of Bruce Lee.
KIOKO'S RATING: 11/10