June 25, 2010

Rabid Rewind: Ong Bak 2

Title: Ong Bak 2
Starring: Tony Jaa, Sorapong Chatree, Sarunyu Wongkrajang
Directors: Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai
Written by: Ek Iemchuen
Released: Magnet Releasing (2010); originally released by Sahamongkolfilm International (2008)
Genre: Martial Arts/Fighting

Any time I have to sit through a movie with subtitles I tell myself that I'm being multicultural. The trouble is that I spend too much time paying attention to those subtitles than the actors and scenes. With Ong Bak 2--and its predecessor for that matter--I had no such trouble since the story is simple pretext for the eye-candy fight scenes.

This movie is a prequel allegedly, though I could hardly tell and if I had never seen the first film then it wouldn't have made a difference. Where the first movie was set in the present with Jaa playing a guardian to a herd of elephants and fights his way to save a baby one, the second movie goes hundreds of years in the past where Jaa plays an orphaned prince trained to be a warrior by a band of thieves. The connection between the two films seems vicarious at best, with a couple of scenes involving elephants being the only thing to connect the two movie's stories together.

But, like I said, these movies are meant as a showcase for Tony Jaa's amazing work in fight scenes. If you were ever impressed by Jackie Chan's stunt work in his--shall we say be polite and say--action films, wait until you get a load of this kid. Like Chan, Jaa does all of his own stunts. Heck, I'm pretty sure the entire cast does their own stunts. Why bother hiring actors for these roles when they're going to be sitting out ninety percent of the scenes anyway so the stunt performers can go to work?

It's a revenge tale at it's heart. A little prince is cast out as his father is overthrown, only to grow up to be a warrior who seeks vengeance on those who wronged his family and friends. There's a nice twist at the climax of the movie, but it's probably a well-worn one in these types of films. The whole movie feels very organic, thanks to the absence of special effects and copious amounts of wire-work. It's a bunch of guys, some of whom in very cool costumes, showing off their moves for the audience.

It's an okay movie on DVD, but it's the kind of film to be seen in a large crowd at a theater so you can join in with the "oohs" and "aahs" during the action. And if you're a fight fan, chances are it won't matter how you see this one as long as you see it.

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