Some years have passed since the success of "Thai Warrior Ong-Bak" which launched action superstar Tony Jaa to superstardom and his follow up hit "Tom Yum Goong" (aka. The Protector). The much anticipated sequel to "Ong-Bak" had experienced quite a few obstacles during production. Tony Jaa was at its helm as writer and director but for some reason, stopped production until his mentor Patta Rittikrai came to finish the film. This sequel occurs in a different period with different characters than the original; I wondered as to how it got the same moniker. I supposed the production folks wanted a familiar title for its audiences. Nonetheless, if what you are looking for is Martial Arts ACTION, "Ong-Bak 2" delivers.
A young man named Tien is orphaned when his family is murdered by a rival noble. Tien is found by a group of slave traders, and for some reason, the leader of the Pha Peek Krut Pirates, Cher Nung takes pity on the boy. Nung notices the young boy's fighting spirit. The boy is trained in all manner of fighting and grows up (this time played as Tony Jaa). Now a highly skilled fighter and has overcome many tests of manhood, Tien is appointed second in command of the pirates. But there is an innate anger within Tien, he hungers for revenge. He seeks out the killers of his family but there is more to things that meets the eye. Tien must now fight for his life alone.
Granted, the plotline in Jaa's previous films weren't works of ingenuity and this film is quite the same. The plot in "Ong-Bak 2" is pretty routine and unimaginative. The details of story are shown in flashbacks, and quite honestly, there was effort in making an intricate storyline, but the execution is very weak. The film's narrative stumbles and there are plot holes aplenty; certain parts of the film felt too rushed no doubt to meet its deadline. There are a few attempts at an effective twist, but it felt more like a throw-away detail since none of the characters involved were fully developed. Some characters come and go, and I failed to connect with the protagonists.
There are certain familiar characters that show up, there is the "Crow Ghost" introduced by Dan Chupong in "Tabunfire" who uses some razzle-dazzling martial arts with the use of explosives, there is a touch of mysticism (with a blind shaman and a fanged woman), ninja-like fighters, a samurai swordsman, a practitioner of kung fu, there is a jiu-jitsu master, an Arab warrior -- the film does have a lot of potential and this group of pirates is a large assemblage of warriors; the problem none of it felt relevant because of the lack of development. The characters while colorful appeared to be a mere attempt at style than a part of its storyline. Tien also has a love interest, but it never goes anywhere. The film has a lot of cool elements but it's narrative needed to be more cohesive.
Thankfully, the film's action sequences are as impressive as Jaa's previous films. There is a lot of swordplay, hard-hitting punches and bone crushing kicks to satisfy the action junkie. Tony Jaa still maintains his "no wires" style as he performs his own acrobatic, jaw-dropping stunts which had proven to be his signature. There are some minor use of wires utilized by some of the stuntmen but none too elaborate. His previous films feature his prowess in the moves of Muay Thai and kickboxing, and in this film, Jaa displays several different styles. Jaa makes use of a Tai Chi sword and a katana, some Gong Fu, a dose of Jiu-jitsu and even some moves from Jackie Chan's "Drunken Master". I suppose that this was meant to be an exposition that Tien's character is well-versed with martial arts from China, Japan, and Thailand. It is a nice touch as Tien is trained to become the most dangerous fighter in this period.
The cinematography is quite decent and well engaged in showing all the bone-crushing action. The scenes mostly take place in the jungle, and unlike the original "Ong-Bak" and "Tom Yum Goong", the set ups for the action is pretty routine and may prove repetitive to some. The action is quick, intense and bloody brutal at times, maybe more brutal than the original. The film does have a gloomy atmosphere and delivers most of the plot with a straight face. However, it may have too much of a serious tone, and Tien appears to be obsessed with one emotion; anger. Much of the film's screenplay are minor set ups for Jaa to show his skills as a martial artist and not as an actor. I know this film flies high as an action film but the lack of emotions tend to dull the narrative impact of the fight scenes. The climax also ends in a cliffhanger and I thought it was rather unsatisfying.
"ONG-BAK 2" is the type of film that stays aloft due to the number of action sequences and just how impressive they are; on this regard, it doesn't disappoint. Sometimes we need a pure action film and this film is one of those bone-crushing, stylish, hyper-kinetic action films that action fans would talk about because of its fight sequences and never because of an intricate storyline. There is some ambition this time around in presenting an in-depth plot but it was abandoned in favor of action. The climax does prove a little too empty and unsatisfying, but it does have enough action to hide its many flaws. No acting, no wires, and no emotions--Jaa and Rittikrai does deliver in terms of excitement in its display of martial arts action in the form of Tony Jaa!
Recommended! [3 Out of 5 Stars]
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