As somebody who had not heard any of this before, it became a curious phenomenon to sit and watch a film and slowly have the realities begin to click into place.
An old-fashioned movie made with new-fashioned finesse.
The biggest problem with this movie is it’s a little better than you think it might be, which somehow makes it worse. As in, it takes itself a bit too seriously, which makes most of the movie feel kind of dull.
I came to ONG BAK: THE BEGINNING with mixed feelings, because I'd heard so much contradictory stuff about it. Some say it's a very poor film, a disappointing follow-up; others rave over it and say it surpasses the original. The truth is that it's a very different film in terms of scope and feel, and, while the troubled production history has left it looking a little rough around the edges – especially in terms of the editing, which has the story needlessly jumping backwards and forwards through time when a more chronological approach would have been better – it offers the same level of enjoyment as its predecessor. I may like it less on repeat viewings, but for my first-time encounter I had a ball with this one.If anything, Jaa is more intense, more raw, more brutal than in the first film. There's an extra gloss of professionalism that was missing from that down 'n' dirty martial arts showpiece. For instance, there's a real story here, hints of a romantic sub-plot, even a couple of plot twists along the way – including a biggie at the climax. In the end, though, it's all about the action, and it's still plentiful and beautifully shot. Our hero battles an evil army in this one, thumping his way through slave traders and black-clad assassins and engaging in some gruelling training sequences. Jaa's skill as a fighter has increased and there's weapon-play aplenty here, along with the traditional elbow and knee moves. Inevitably, the best stuff is saved for the extended climax, quite simply one of the best-shot things to ever come out of Thailand; I can't wait to watch it through a second time to catch all the incredible stunts and battles. Things end on a real cliffhanger, paving the way for ONG BAK 3, a film whose trailer makes it out to be just as good – if not better – than this one.
I had the premonition of disaster when I saw Tony Jaa's name in the list of scriptwriters and then my heart sank when he was also listed as one of the directors. Some random kingdom is expanding and killing people in Thailand, 600 odd years back. Jaa's family is massacred and he is adopted by a pirate gang who give him the mandatory weapons training so that he can go and f**k everybody's ass some day. This is as unintentionally hilarious as they come. The costumes, the set pieces, the acting, the story all fall into the category of "so bad that they are good". There are flashback scenes which show the family members of Jaa being knocked off. They are howlarious and you cannot stop laughing. There is the omnipresent gratuitous violence against women. In between Jaa also becomes a sort of Robinhood against human trafficking. Ong Bak was entertaining as it had the right dose of humor and action along with a straight story line. Here, there is only a "dark" tale of revenge which is so ineptly directed that it will cure the sleeping disorder of even the most hardened insomniacs. This is what is called Brand Dilution in marketing jargon. Ong Bak was a respectable product. They came up with this just to earn a few quick bucks. The ironical part is that they failed even in that. 1 out of 5 for this.
Seeing reviews online, I was slightly dissuaded by comments that this movie lacked any sort of plot, and that this detracted from the movie, even though the action was pretty good. Stupidly, I waited, wondering if my high hopes might be dashed after the excellence of Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong. I should NOT have waited. This movie is different to the previous two, yes, but only in good ways.Let me suggest what elements the kung fu movie must generally have to be successful. First, a hero, with awesome fighting skills. Second, a bad guy, with either (a) awesome fighting skills or (b) lots of henchmen with awesome fighting skills. Third, something for them to fight over (be it a girl, a murder, theft, oppression...). An optional, but usually fun, fourth element is a training sequence where the protagonist learns all about kung fu (sometimes, in fact, this may be the basis for the movie, as in "36 Chambers of Shaolin", but we'll ignore that).The last element, which comes from incorporating all of the above elements, is excellent action. This is, I think, the most important aspect of an action movie. Sometimes, when the choreography is flawless and innovative, and the main fighters are very skilled, a good story is not even necessary.So, how does Ong Bak 2 stand up to these requirements? First, it has a hero, and he has AWESOME fighting skills - Tony Jaa joined the elite ranks of Jackie Chan and Jet Li with his first two movies, and he hasn't lost a step here. Second, it has a bad guy - in fact, a few bad guys - and lots of henchmen. Third, it has a plot based on oppression, kidnap, and murder, forming the basis for a seething revenge movie. Fourth, it has a training sequence, and this one in particular is something fans of martial arts cinema in general will all be able to appreciate.Lastly, it has great action. It seems that putting Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai together is like putting Jackie Chan and Yuen Woo Ping together (see Drunken Master) - the action is expertly choreographed, directed, and executed, always fast and acrobatic, and always innovative. The bonus in this movie is that, unlike the first Jaa movies, it features a lot of weapon-play and incorporates other martial arts, as well as the usual Muay Thai elbows and knees.Occasionally slightly hard to follow, but never entirely confusing, I would argue that, contrary to popular opinion, this movie actually has a decent plot. Most importantly, however, it has some of the best action ever committed to film.
Well, I thought the movie was alright. The storyline wasn't that smart in my opinion, as it seemed pretty simple, and not deeply thought through. Also, sometimes when the music was played, it gave the movie a sense of simpleness too. Seemed kind of corny for a serious martial arts film. The acting was good and convincing I thought, but some of the lines were kind of obvious. During several scenes, the lines sounded as if the movie was meant to be intelligent and teach some deep meaningful message, however, it was simple explanations for tactics when fighting, and it was far too little. The only thing that kept me from rating this movie as significantly below-average was the fighting scenes. A couple of them were some of the best scenes that I've seen in over 100 Asian martial arts movies. And I thought there were many scenes that could have been deleted.