Story: Tien (Tony Jaa) is captured by king Rajasena (Sarunyu Wongkrachang). Accordingly, Tien's plan of revenge on the king for the murder
of his family has failed. After endless days of torture Tien is saved by some friends, but his physical condition gives only little hope. Almost
every bone in his body is broken and his life is merely hanging by a thread. The priest Bua (Nirut Sirichanya) and Tien's childhood love Pim
(Primrata Dechudom) take care of him and after some time he is actually brought back to life. Pim teaches him how to regain control over his
body through dancing and master Bua shows him how to accept his bad karma via meditation.
At the same time, king Rajasena is plagued by a curse, which the former ruler put on his murderer Rajasena before passing away. Only Crow Ghost (Dan Chupong) seems to have the power to break the curse. However, the prize he demands is high. Anyway, the king's reign of terror calls for Tien who is now ready to bring down the king once and for all.
Review: After the pretty disappointing second installment of Tony Jaa's martial arts trilogy it was rather questionable if there was
really the need for a third part, but in the end every trilogy needs its conclusion, because otherwise... well, otherwise you could hardly call
"Ong Bak" a trilogy! It's as simple as that. And that's just the attitude you should bring with you when watching the movie. At least, considering the
low expectations the second part raised this way "Ong Bak 3" didn't come across as disappointing, because that the film wouldn't be really good
was to be expected. Therefore, there actually isn't much more left to say. Besides a few nice fight scenes, which nonetheless simply lack the
outstanding flavour of the first part and at some points are also weaker than those of the second part, there isn't much to be called good. Maybe the more
meditative nature of the film falls into this category, but then again this doesn't fully fit into the framework of the movie. Storywise there
isn't any great effort to be expected anyway. Thus, this movie is solely for hardcore action fans, who just need to know how the story around
Tien ends. Just don't expect to see anyone wearing
celebrating the third installment.
Strangely, the movie doesn't need you to have any knowledge of the second part. You can comprehend everything without having watched it and reason for that aren't really the flashbacks, but solely the fact that the story is full of such simplicity that it's actually totally negligible. At least the movie now tries to work more on an emotional level and so we can in fact relate to Tien, contrary to how things were in the second part. We even care for some of the supporting characters. The romantic relationship with Pim gets more focus, but fortunately in an unobtrusive way, and Tien's enlightenment is also nice to look at. Through dancing his body regains his former power and so it shouldn't surprise that Jaa's fighting style seems a lot softer this time. As already stated there are certain traditional dancing moves to be found in his style, but also certain elements of Tai Ji and Bagua. Only during the finale there are some of his more violent Muay Thai moves to be seen. Interestingly, this isn't as bad as it might sound for some fans as Tony Jaa is bringing more diversity to the film this way and can prove his expertise in these areas as well.
Granted, "Ong Bak 3" starts off rather slow, apart from the actual first minutes that is, and unnecessarily gets lost too often in the story surrounding the king's curse. However, I wasn't really sure why many critics bashed Tien's recovery which would be too lengthy and make the movie's pacing uneven. Because actually this might maybe be one of the most captivating aspects of the movie. At some points you could even get the impression that Tony Jaa was trying to act and his character really gets more color thanks to these moments. The movie also gets a more spiritual paint which wouldn't fit that bad if it weren't for the finale - mostly - which underlines this very fact in a rather clumsy fashion. Or should I rather say that it was an unlucky decision to let the movie go one way during the showdown, apparently solely for the reason to make the fans happy, and then the other? Anyway, it remains a fact that the movie should have worked its way from the superficial spirituality to a more profound buddhistic core. The way it is everything is simply nice but half-baked.
As in the second installment there are once again some nice sets and shots to be seen. However, they stand in contrast to some scenes that somehow seem cheap. So you shouldn't expect any consistent level of quality here either and in fact those scenes are so much irritating that they nearly make the first half of the movie a torture. But as already stated things get better. Still, better doesn't necessarily mean good. It's surprising how conciliatory the ending is, but then again we have already seen the story around a fighter who gets enlightened one or two times and "Ong Bak 3" can't deliver anything genuinely new. Most likely the film also reflects Tony Jaa's personal journey as well, who, after some arguments with the producers during the second installment, has become a monk himself. Jaa apparently didn't have a free hand in what he wanted to do and most likely he wasn't really putting all his heart into his work at the end.
The action choreography (done by Tony Jaa as well) surely doesn't need to hide, yet the movie can only convince as a true martial arts flick at the end. Before that there is just too little fight scenes to call it that. That's just why the movie falls far short of expectations for many viewers. The unpolishedness is the most annoying fact in "Ong Bak 3". Petchtai Wongkamlao as the funny addition to the cast doesn't fit into the movie, but surprisingly he isn't as irritating as the loosely linked and half-baked story pieces. At least Dan Chupong can ooze some charisma as the villian later on, but this makes the initial story around the king and the annoying curse-scenes even the more questionable.
No, "Ong Bak 3" is as little a worthy finish of the trilogy as the second part was a worthy sequel. It's just that this time you already know what you are paying for, but for that you also get less action. It's a shame... Thus, the only thing to hope for is that Tony Jaa won't continue to hide behind temple walls, but next time will present his fans something they really want to see. I also wouldn't mind for some more spirituality, but next time do it right, please.