Friday, 16 July 2010

Ong Bak 2

Directed by: Tony Jaa & Panna Rittikrai
Starring: Tony Jaa, Dan Chupong

Ong Bak was the lean, mean, fighting machine that introduced the world to Thai martial arts star Tony Jaa. Simple in its story telling and containing some of the most impressive and not to mention bone crunching fighting to come along in an age, Ong Bak gained instant classic status. Then it got a sequel. Well, sort of. Ong Bak 2 is a sequel in name only as it has nothing to do with the original fight film. Despite starring Tony Jaa (who also directs here) and still featuring a ton of impressive fight action, Ong Bak 2 is about as far from Ong Bak as you can get. Whereas the original was a modern day set action flick, this is a period piece set in some dark and dirty, and very bloody, time in Thai history. Whereas Ong Bak had a comedy sidekick and a light touch in between all the violent action, Ong Bak 2 is unrelenting in its despair, blood, violence and general gothic oddness. To be honest, it's not really surprising fans of Ong Bak where disappointed by this wholly baffling sequel.

Baffling it certainly is, some mumbo jumbo about a kid called Tien (Jaa) who sees his parents slain so trains in the way of martial arts to take revenge on the evil army of dictators, mystical warriors and general oddball fighters who murdered his family. Albeit after he has taken in some crocodile fighting (!), running across the top of elephants (!!!????), a weird flashback structure which tries to explain what is going on and all sorts of gothic/mud encrusted weirdness. Yeah, not much like Ong Bak then. Thankfully it does have one thing in common with the original film: a ton of inventive and brutal fight action. It takes a little while to get to but once the action starts it is some fine Thai flavoured fighting which once again shows why the Thai film industry is currently at the forefront of martial arts action. Jaa pushes himself to the limits of endurance in a series of intricate and incredibly brutal fight scenes that take in many forms, styles and weapons. Often jaw dropping in their execution including an incredible sequence where Jaa takes out a collection of opponents with only his legs while lying on the ground, the fights are quite simply some of the best out there.

To be honest, the gothic, blood soaked period setting and vibe is actually pretty cool and sets the film apart from Jaa's other flicks, as he was obviously going for something dark and serious here. It's a just a shame the film has been chopped and changed so much and ends so abruptly (making way for Ong Bak 3, which is basically just the rest of this film). But the filmmakers biggest mistake was calling this Ong Bak 2 when it is nothing like Ong Bak. Expectations were never going to be met and disappointment was always inevitable which is a shame as this is still a decent fight flick. They just should have called it something else.

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