Ong Bak 2: The Beginning (2009)
Release Date: October 23rd, 2009 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Tony Jaa Actors: Tony Jaa, Santisuk Promsiri, Sarunyoo Wongkrachang, Sorapong Chatree, Petchtai Wongkamlao
here’s a lot to like about “Ong Bak 2,” for those who enjoy visceral martial arts action; and a lot to dislike for those who value a good story. The extensive fight sequences found throughout are impressive and perhaps more intense than Tony Jaa’s previous efforts, due to a unique mixture of multiple fighting styles and various weaponry. The cinematography and stunt choreography are also brilliant, but barely outweigh the muddled storytelling, implausible setups, and abusive slow motion that pervades everything from stampeding elephants to spitting slave traders. Plus, there sure are a lot of flashbacks for a movie dubbed “The Beginning.”
The son of nobleman Lord Sihadecho, headstrong young Tien (Tony Jaa) is entrusted to Master Bua to protect him during a time of civil unrest. When Sihadecho is betrayed and attacked by the traitorous Rajsena, Tien becomes the only survivor of his family and is rescued by Chernang (Sorapong Chatree), the king of the bandits of Garuda Wing Cliff. Raised and trained as Chernang’s own son, Tien learns the principles of warfare and gains stunning skills in numerous fighting styles and weaponry. Quickly becoming one of the greatest warriors that ever lived, Tien turns to vengeance and begins hunting down and killing those that have wronged him. But deception and betrayal are never far away…
Typically, in martial arts action movies the story doesn’t matter. The fight choreography is on display, hopefully in scene after scene of lightning fact, brutal, and creative violence. Unfortunately, “Ong Bak 2” suffers from too much exposition – the lengthy scenes of establishing characters, including several that have very little impact on the plot, and training sequences, eat away at the time for frenzied combat. It’s actually a distraction to see flashbacks play out, explaining various points in Tien’s life. Considering this is supposed to be the beginning, it’s especially odd that the film resorts to jumping even further back in time for extra details on his upbringing.
Tien has croc fights for breakfast, sword fights for lunch, and brawls on the tops of live elephants for dinner. The cinematography is crisp and vibrant, amplifying the blood, sweat, tears, mud, saliva, and grime continuously splashing about, but everything is also drenched in slow-motion, nearly all of which fails to increase the intensity. The actual moments of dueling and weapon skirmishes are quite thrilling, but very infrequently do they top the sequences in the first film. Even though “Ong Bak 2” is considered a sequel, it has nothing to do with the first film, and more importantly, isn’t able to best the less severe, less serious, more light-hearted previous entry. Isn’t the point to surpass the appeal and impressiveness of the original?
– The Massie Twins