Ong Bak 3 (2011)
Release Date: January 14th, 2011 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Tony Jaa, Panna Rittikrai Actors: Tony Jaa, Primrata Det-Udom, Chupong Chungpruk, Nirut Sirichanya, Phetthai Wongkhamlao, Philip Hersh
torytelling has never been the strong point in a Tony Jaa film. Audiences that have made it this far in the Ong Bak trilogy will know this, but will also be more likely to overlook such shortcomings and focus on the primary reason for watching the Thai martial arts master – the lengthy, sensationally choreographed fight scenes. Unfortunately, “Ong Bak 3” not only continues with an expectedly mundane tale, it also fails to maintain the visual thrills of previous installments.
Tortured nearly to death by the treacherous Lord Rajasena, Tien (Tony Jaa) is rescued by the Kana Khone villagers and nursed back to health. Though cursed with tragic karma, the resilient fighter is able to overcome his inner demons and tormented soul with the aid of spiritual enlightenment, meditation, and the love of his childhood friend, Pim (Primrata Det-Udom). When a ruthless killer from Tien’s past returns and captures Pim and the villagers, the reborn warrior must battle insurmountable odds to save them.
The original “Ong Bak” utilized a simple fish-out-of-water premise to explore Jaa’s unique fighting abilities. “Ong Bak 2” wisely multiplied the fights and combat styles, but also muddied the proceedings with a convoluted plot and unsatisfactory conclusion. The final film in the trilogy picks up shortly after and takes the confusion even further by adding more supernatural elements, mythology, religion, and philosophy into the fray. Though the opening recap attempts to refresh the audience on the events of the previous movie, it doesn’t take long before things stop making sense. What does take a long time is Tien’s period of recovery before he’s able to continue his reign of ass-kicking. Making the audience wait for action in an action-oriented film with little other substance is a detrimental flaw.
When the bewildering plot, shoddy special effects, and abusively over-dramatic slow-motion tactics aren’t hindering the pace, the action’s energetic flow and creative choreography embellish Jaa’s already impressive martial arts prowess. Sadly, the number of battle sequences doesn’t feel nearly as plentiful as in the predecessors; similarly, the mixture of fighting styles, weaponry, and over-the-top villains can’t compete. It’s an underwhelming way to conclude Tien’s adventures and doesn’t build upon the spectacle of the first two entries. No one really expects the story to improve, but the adventurousness ebbing is a supreme disappointment.
– Joel Massie