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Monday, September 7, 2009

ONG BAK 2

By D.E.Levine

Directors: Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai
Writer: Panna Rittikrai and Tony Jaa (story); Ek Iemchuen, Nontakorn Taveesuk (screenplay)
Producers: Prachya Pinkaew, Panna Rittikrai, Tony Jaa and Akarapol Techaratanaprasert
Executive Producer: Somsak Techaratanaprasert
Cast: Tony Jaa, Sorapong Chatree, Saranyu Wongkrajang, Santisuk Promsiri, Natdanai Kongthong, Pattama Panthongphetthai, Wongkamlaoprimrata Det-Udom, Nirut Sirijanya, Petchtai Wonkamlao, Somdet Kaewler, Dan Chupong, Supakorn Kitsuwon, Nga Caravan, Mum Jokmok, Yokyek Chernyim, Tim Man
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Country of Origin: Thailand
Language: Thai (with English subtitles)
Genre: Action, Drama

Visually stunning scenery and costumes plus breathtaking martial arts and beautiful traditional dance scenes all contribute to making Ong Bak 2 a fast paced action film that moves along quickly and ends with an unexpected twist.

Shot over a period of two years, the film flows along quickly as a fascinating period piece opening vistas into life in 1431 Ayudhaya and thereafter.

When Tien, the son of a Royal Army general, is hidden by his parents as Lord Rajasena runs amok in northern Thailand and enemies attempt to dominate the country by killing all of the ruling class, we see the young boy trained in dance and music but not given the martial arts training he desires.

As the enemies grow more successful, Tien sees his parents murdered, is traumatized but manages to escape but is captured by slave traders and thrown into a crocodile pit where he must fight for his life so that the slave traders can be entertained.

Rescued by Garuda Wing Cliff bandits led by the wise and sympathetic Chernang, he is singled out as specially gifted and trained to be a fighting champion. Jaa is thrilling as in his rite of passage he demonstrates Thai boxing skills, snake fist kung fu, Japanese swordsmanship and drunken boxing, triumphing over his competitors. He is also taught how to kill, not just fight, because according to Chernang, killing is the final step to becoming a great leader.

Chernang wants to hand leadership of the bandits over to Tien but the impetuous teenager says he must settle a personal score and takes off to track down and kill Lord Rajsena.
In actual battle, he uses not only his skills, but an elephant, in ways I've never seen demonstrated before. There's a scene where Jaa fights off an attacker behaving like a bird and using eagle claw while on top of the elephant. In fact, this is a martial arts movie unlike any I've ever seen before from any country.

The fight scenes are brutal using no doubles or wires and Jaa moves gracefully through many variations of martial arts, combining Thai, Chinese and Japanese styles in the movie and performing them all with amazing skill and agility. While his "graduation" test shows his spectacular performance against single competitors, the village fight scene at the end takes Jaa seamlessly from Thai boxing to tiger crane boxing to sword, three section staff and finally into rope dart.

Jaa is graceful and flawless in the martial arts performances. His and and foot placements are perfect. The fight scenes are brutal but have been carefully choreographed so no one will be hurt, But the script loses focus and moves from a revenge story to a hazy plot with aspects of romance, spirituality and evil triumphing over good.

Returning to the bandit village, Tien has a shock when he is confronted by the Rajasena's army and must do battle with them although they appear to have supernatural powers. In a stunning plot twist, his parents' murderer, dressed all in black armor and mask, appears to do battle and turns out to be the least expected person Tien imagined.

Forced to kill or be killed, Tien appears to be facing certain death at the hands of his captors. However, I've been told this is a Thai cliffhanger that will be cleared up in a sequel, if one is made.

The question remains, since this production went over budget and schedule and Jaa even defected for a while, will another Ong Bak movie be made?