Review: ONG BAK 2 องค์บาก 2 (2008) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Review: ONG BAK 2 องค์บาก 2 (2008)


WITH 2003's ONG BAK and 2005's TOM YUM GOONG under his belt, Thai martial art sensation Tony Jaa returns with the long-awaited and much-anticipated ONG BAK 2. Originally billed as Jaa's directorial debut, the film ends up being partially helmed by one of his mentors, veteran stunt coordinator Panna Rittikrai taking over his leftover duties after Jaa walked off the set and disappeared from the production altogether. Whether Jaa is stressed out and whatnot is anybody's guess, but the film manages to be completed and released with great fanfare in its native country. However, despite carrying a title of ONG BAK 2, the film bares no connection whatsoever to Jaa's groundbreaking debut, ONG BAK, but merely appeared as namesake only.

Instead of urban setting Jaa has previously acted in two films, the film is set during the year of 1431 where the kingdom of Ayudhaya is expanding its empire across the nation. When royal army commander Lord Sihadecho (Santisuk Promsiri) and his wife Lady Plai (Pattama Panthongphetthai) are brutally murdered by the treacherous Lord Rajasena (Sarunyu Wongkrajang), their athletic teenage son, Tien (Natadanai Kongthong) manages to escape but ends up being captured by a bunch of sleazy slave traders who toss him in a crocodile pit to see whether he can survive or not. Luckily he is rescued by the Garuda Wing Cliff bandits, led by the bearded Chernang (Sorapong Chatree), who sensed Tien has a special quality he wants to take care of him like his own son. Over the years, Chernang trains him all kind of martial art techniques until Tien grows up (now played by Jaa) destined to become champion. Supervised by Chernang, Tien faced his ultimate final test to complete his martial-art training by walking the backs of stampeding elephants before making them kneel in respect, and then fighting fellow bandits with different fighting techniques, and succeeds admirably. Afterwards, he's out settling his old score by avenging against the slave traders before finally decides to avenge his parents' death.

Like his previous two films, ONG BAK 2 bares the same old routine plot that doesn't really shows much concern on narrative front. Still, Panna Rittikrai's screenplay is marginally better, if taking by comparison especially the film is ripe maturely with murky undertones.

But likewise, the film remains an ultimate showcase for Tony Jaa strutting his usual hard-hitting martial art style. Not only he uses his trademark Muay Thai, but also brandishes a variety of weapons as well as practices several martial art styles including paying tributes to Jackie Chan's "drunken fist" fight as well as 1970's Hong Kong chopsocky kungfu genre once dominated by the Shaw Brothers. The result is breathtaking, especially the final 20-minute, nonstop martial art showdown where the angered Jaa squaring off against a large number of heavily armed villains. At one creative standpoint, Jaa evokes Jackie Chan's improvised fighting style by using the elephant as prop (e.g. tasks) to defeat his enemies.

Despite all the good stuff, there's still this unshakable feeling that the film feels incomplete. The ending is especially anticlimactic as the film ends up abruptly with an open sequel that, truth to be said, Jaa and Rittikrai could have choose to wrap up the entire story with a longer running time. With Jaa already confirmed that ONG BAK 3 is fast-tracking for production by next year, one can only hope that the following sequel can wrap everything nicely.

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