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Martial Arts film starring Tony Jaa

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Disappointment in the Jungle

  • Mar 16, 2010

If ever there was a film I was looking forward to, other than DRAG ME TO HELL, it was ONG-BAK 2. Tony Jaa's Muay Thai left no doubt in my mind that he was going to leave a long trail of great martial arts flix (and battered, mangled bodies) in his wake, and I was eagerly anticipating seeing everyone of them. And the reviews for the film were so encouraging that I felt certain that this was gonna be a good one.

Yep. And then I saw it. And I found myself wondering if I had just seen a different movie than the one everybody else had been raving about. Let's see...

First of all there's the story which I actually liked MORE than most, not that it's a great piece of screenwriting because it certainly isn't, and all of the complaints about it are justified. There are plot holes aplenty, undeveloped characters to be sure, and the shopworn tale of revenge is a staple of the genre. Now I'm the last one to demand great drama from all my martial arts flix, plus after 3 decades of flix set in the blandness of the contemporary worId, I was charmed by the exotic setting--there's nothing I like more than a period piece and this felt sort of like a brutal version of THE JUNGLE BOOK at times, especially in the scene where Jaa is leaping from the back of one moving one elephant to another as the herd moves at a brisk pace.

Then there's the impressive cinematography. Certainly no one has any complaints here because the entire production is several large steps over its predecessor in that respect. You have to feel sorry for first time director Jaa having to pull a film together with the conditions he was working under in the jungle--it was clearly the monsoon season since 80% of the film seems to take place either before, during, or after torrential rain. The fights are all well photographed, no obscured action here--you get to see what came to see. But there in lies the problem and where I sadly have to disagree with almost everyone else; The fights sucked eggs.

There it is--the fights suck eggs big time, and the quality of the fight scenes are where martial arts flix either stand or fall. I have never seen something that should have been so good turn out to be quite such a disappointment. I don't even know where to begin when describing what went wrong. Let's start with the first/worst thing I noticed--they seeded up the fights! There's no reason to do that with this guy, he's got plenty of speed and yet the camera was undercranked to such an extent that it was ludicrous. Okay, so everybody is under-cranked these days, none of 'em are Bruce Lee. Jackie Chan has been getting it since at least DRAGONS FOREVER (that's when I first noticed it anyhow), but it was handled discreetly and you couldn't tell for sure unless an object in the background gave it away, in DRAGONS FOREVER it was a ceiling fan that changed speeds noticeably when the action began. In Jaa's case however, there's never the slightest doubt in any one's mind as to what's going on. It just looks silly--sort of like the Keystone Kops had suddenly hit town and turned into crazed killers. Secondly, there was the use of wires--none on Jaa so far, but what I had appreciated about the first ONG-BAK was the complete ABSENCE of wire fu. It had been so nice to see reality again! Well with the return of wires and under-cranking we can kiss reality good bye. (sigh) The third annoyance would be the choreography which looked as if it had been picked up out of a book rather than learned through years of study. Jaa's execution of the techniques didn't come off any better than the choreography itself. He seemed awkward and stiff and I kept praying that at some point we'd see something resembling Muay Thai--and there were about 6 or 7 moves. Granted that as the film lurched through that final frenzied fight scene it did hold my attention, but it would have been so much better if he had been ripping 'em apart with those Muay Thai moves I had been expecting to see. You all know what I mean.
A disappointing film that nonetheless did succeed in entertaining me when viewed as an heroic fantasy.

I've since been told that perhaps the version I got from NetFlix was copied from a PAL version which would explain why the fight scenes appeared to be speeded up. I can't really say. But perhaps if that is the case the people who gave this film 4 stars really DID see a different movie than I did. =)

HYPE FACTOR: Doesn't live up to it's hype
Disappointment in the Jungle Disappointment in the Jungle Disappointment in the Jungle Disappointment in the Jungle

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April 15, 2010
I have the 2 disc version and have yet to watch it, I should slap myself. Excellent review.
April 15, 2010
At least you won't have to put up with all that sped up motion in the fight scenes! I hear it's totally lacking in that version.
March 16, 2010
Explanation: Somehow this review disappeared so I had to knockout a new one to replace it.
March 16, 2010
really? I need to check if some of my own reviews are disappearing too....the previous post had tons of informative comments about the U.S. release. Great read as always though, Karen!
March 16, 2010
Have no idea what happened to it.
More ONG-BAK 2: The Beginning reviews
review by . September 03, 2010
Now I have seen many many martial arts flicks and seen sum of the legends, the unknown legends, and the occasional one hit wonders. Ong Bak 2 surprised the hell outta me and honestly I can see a person having an issue with the story but the fight scenes? All I can say is this man is beyond human.       First off, the story was ok but its something thats been done and seen before as Jaa doesn't have a team truly focusing on coming up with unique screenplays but setting …
review by . April 30, 2009
posted in ASIANatomy
Dvd cover
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 …
Quick Tip by . May 01, 2010
posted in ASIANatomy
A muddled mess with disappointing fight scenes. A sorry follow up to the first film.
Quick Tip by . February 15, 2010
posted in ASIANatomy
There's a lot of martial arts action in this flick but the quality of the action isn't as good as in the first film.
About the reviewer
karen ()
Ranked #1
I am the poster child for inertia. Where ever I am is where I plan to stay FOREVER.   So much so in fact that it took me decades to understand the punchline about why   the chicken … more
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