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Original Title:
Ong Bak 2

Thailand 2008


Tony Jaa
Panna Rittikrai

Tony Jaa
Sorapong Chatree
Sarunyu Wongkrachang
Nirut Sirichanya
Santisuk Promsiri
Primorata Dejudom
Patthama Panthong
Petchtai Wongkamlao

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Ong Bak 2

Story: Tien is the son of one of the great generals of the kingdom Ayutthaya. Despite his pleading to be trained in Martial Arts, Tien isn't granted his wish and instead is instructed in dancing. It is a time in which one of the lords, Rajasena, strives to gain more power in the kingdom, which is why he tries to widen his area of influence, and therefore kills Tien's parents, who witnesses the murder. Tien himself is able to flee, though, and by accident is picked up by a group of slavers in the djungle. However, shortly thereafter the little boy is freed from the merciless fangs of the enslavers by a group of bandits. The leader of that group, Chernang (Sorapong Chatree), immediately recognizes the talent hidden in Tien and takes him under his wings. At Chernang's camp he learns a variety of different martial arts until he becomes the best among the bandits, eventually. As the second in command the meanwhile grown-up Tien (Tony Jaa) is leading the raids till his past catches up with him. For Tien there is no other choice but to finally face and beat the demons of his past in order to revenge the death of his parents...

Review: Fans surely had to wait long until a true sequel to Tony Jaa's stunt fest and breakthrough hit "Ong Bak" was finally brought to the screen. In fact, "Ong Bak 2" has little to do with its predecessor, so that "Tom Yum Goong" (aka "Revenge of the Warrior") should be recommended as the actual sequel, since the second installment of the thai action movie truely falls short of our expectations...
This time Tony Jaa works as a multitalent, as he isn't just the star and stunt coordinator of the film, but he also fills the role of the (co-)director and he has written on the script, too. Nonetheless, you shouldn't fool yourself, the story once again is very simple, even though there were attempts to work with it a little bit more, which eventually even leads to one of the many flaws of the movie, as we have to wait quite a bit until the real action finally hits the screen without being served with actual character development - despite the potential that the anti-hero Tien had - or a complex story in return.

There was already reason enough to get suspicious concerning the level of quality of the film while the movie was still in production, as there was quite some dubious publicity beforehand. Tony Jaa suddenly vanished during filming, because he wanted to meditate about the film since he had some arguements with the production company, so that his mentor and choreographer Panna Rittikrai replaced him as a director in order for the film to get finished. This raises the question, if the very abrupt ending was actually intended that way, aiming for setting the stage for a (possible) sequel, or if the production company had enough of the numerous delays and demanded a release of the movie. Fact is, that the ending is quite frustrating and simply too sudden. "Is this all?", a question that's running through your mind the whole movie through, but which gets especially apparent at the end. Somehow, there should have been more than this.

The audience actually should have the right to expect a little bit more as the filmmakers had the for thai proportions tremendous record sum of 300 Mio. Baht, which equals about 8,5 Mio US-Dollar, at their disposal. You can also see that amount of money on screen. The pictures have rich colors and look wonderful at times, the nature shots in the djungle are almost overwhelming, and moreover, the costumes and the palace of the ruler are impressive, too. Yet, the filmmakers didn't quite know what to make with the money. For starters, wouldn't a decent script had been nice? It can't be that expensive to get someone write a good one...
Especially at the beginning there are several flashbacks thrown into the movie, which are supposed to create some sort of rising tension, yet they don't manage to do so at all, so that the whole exposition lasts almost the first half of the movie. Among the international audience Tony Jaa will most likely only have fans in the martial arts circle as Jaa isn't really known for his dramatic character play. However, it's just these people that are unnecessarily kept on the tenterhooks here.

Eventually, there are some fighting scenes, still, apart from a few small exceptions, they all somehow look unspectacular. This doesn't mean that there aren't any nice fights to be found, but there is still a lack of something extraordinary, which was the actual driving force in Jaa's former movies. Only in one scene "Ong Bak 2" manages to match that special something of its former movies, which is when the fight shifts to an elephant as a playground.
Nevertheless, on a positive note it's nice to finally see Jaa's versatility in various martial arts. Besides Muay Thai Kickboxing he also shows his Kung Fu and Kenjutsu skills. In general, it's very apparent that there is far more weapon-fighting featured than what we are used to see from Thai movies. Anyway, Jaa still seems to be able to perform the best maneuvers with his body, apart from a sequence towards the end when he gets his hand on a sword whereas he shows us that he seems to be very fond and adept in Chinese sword fighting.
For this movie Jaa also learnt traditional dancing, which also comes along with some very nice acrobatic elements. But despite that, such acrobatic moments, as well as the fights themselves, are simply too sparsely spread throughout the film.

The last twenty minutes, there is action nonstop, though, but somehow this still can't put us in a conciliatory mood. Even the more problematic is that at the end the filmmakers try to bring some more drama into the movie by presenting us with a twist, which to put it nicely seems very contrived. Moreover, certain characters just fall by the wayside, so that we even have to ask ourselves what individuals like the female dancer, with whom Tien shares an implied love story, actually are doing in this movie. Maybe they serve some purpose in a possible sequel? Anyway, even though many of the supporting characters are played by famous thai movie veterans, the characters all remain as shallow as the script. A few nice fighting scenes accompanied by a fitting soundtrack can't outweigh these flaws, especially not since we have expected more numerous and at times also more spectacular action from a movie with the title "Ong Bak 2". The way it is the movie is often a test of patience and above everything else a little disappointment.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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