Review: Ong Bak 2 (TIFF)
PLOT: Tony Jaa is Tiang, a young warrior whos taken in by a gang of bandits when his family is slaughtered by a group of traitors within the monarchy of Thai King Naresuan. Once he reaches adulthood, he goes for revenge. Lots of people get kicked in the head
REVIEW: ONG BAK 2 is star Tony Jaas directorial debut (or co-directorial debut- as he shares credit with Panna Rittikrai, who previously directed the awesome Thai action flick BORN TO FIGHT). Obviously, this is a fairly lavish film by the standards of the Thai film industry. Compared to Jaas other films, ONG BAK 2s production values are excellent, with great widescreen photography, and a surprisingly solid musical score. Its certainly slicker than his last few films, but it also loses a bit of the charm of his earlier work. ONG BAK, and TOM-YUM-GOONG were so balls-to-the-wall insane, that it was hard to dislike them, even if the storylines were beyond stupid and often didnt make a lick of sense.
With his earlier films, Jaa worked with director Prachya Pinkaew who, even if the movies werent terribly well directed, certainly knew how to stage a great action scene- with his four minute steady cam long-take action sequence being one of the most effective fight sequences Ive seen in years. While Jaa, and Rittikrai have made a far more polished film with ONG BAK 2, the action scenes dont even begin to compare with Jaas other films under Pinkaew.
While theres loads of bloody action, it all has a bit of a been-there, done-that feel about it- although, thankfully, Jaa doesnt opt for quick cutting or close-ups in his fight scenes. Theres just nothing in this that really compares to the wicked underground fights from the first ONG BAK, or the insane scene in TOM-YUM-GOONG where Jaa uses elephant bones to slice and dice through his opponents. The only really awesome action scene happens towards the end, where Jaa battles scores of opponents, while using an elephant hes tamed as a weapon. Yes, youve read that right- he uses an elephant as a fight prop. This, and an early scene where Jaa disrupts a slave trade with the help of a little drunken boxing (Jackie Chan would be proud) are the only parts of the film that really kicked my ass in the way that I expect from a Jaa film. Too much of the film is focused on neverending, dull flashbacks to Jaa's childhood, where he learns to dance, which is fine, as he's obviously trying to bring some Thai culture into the film, but simply goes on too long.
The film ends with a massive cliff-hanger, supposedly setting up a sequel, although I think this might have something to do with ONG BAK 2s troubled production history. Supposedly Jaa went a little funny in the head during filming, and pulled a Col. Kurtz, disappearing into the Thai jungles for two months, until finally re-emerging in a bizarre, televised press conference.
Despite the behind the scenes drama, and the fact that the film seems incomplete, I still enjoyed watching ONG BAK 2 even if I was a little disappointed in the fight scenes. Hopefully in ONG BAK 3, theyll be able to keep production on track so they can focus on staging some truly badass brawls, which this film has (especially in the final 20 minutes), but not on the same level as what weve seen in Jaas previous films. Nevertheless, Ill be first in line to see ONG BAK 3; I just hope Jaa manages to top his work with Pinkaew, which this film certainly does not accomplish.
RATING: Overall, Id give this a 5, but the last twenty minutes knock it up to a 6.5
Other reviews from TIFF: MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS - UP IN THE AIR - JENNIFER'S BODY - THE INVENTION OF LYING - DAYBREAKERS - YOUTH IN REVOLT - THE BOYS ARE BACK - THE ROAD - THE INFORMANT!- BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS - A SERIOUS MAN- LEAVES OF GRASS- SOLITARY MAN- THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS - MICMACS - WHIP IT
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