Ong Bak 2

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AKA: Ong-Bak 2, Ong Bak II, Ong Bak 2: The Beginning, Ong Bak 2: The Birth of The Dragon

Year of release: 2008

Genre: martial arts

Directors: Tony Jaa, Prachya Pinkaew

Action director: Tony Jaa

Producer: Panna Rittikrai

Writer: Panna Rittikrai

Stars: Tony Jaa, Sorapong Chatree, Sarunyu Wongkrachang, Nirut Sirichanya, Santisuk Promsiri, Primorata Dejudom

Not rated; contains R-level violence

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Ong Bak 2  Ong Bak 2

Ong Bak 2  Ong Bak 2

Despite having a troubled production where its' star and director had a bona-fide freak-out, Ong Bak 2 delivers what fans of Tony Jaa have come to expect from his work. Even though there might not be enough random jumping multiple knee strikes to the head for some viewers, most martial arts aficinados should find a lot to like here.

A sequel in name only to the first film -- though Tony Jaa says that Ong Bak 3 will tie all of the movies together -- Ong Bak 2 takes place in 1421, a time of upheaval in Thailand, where the royal family is under siege politically. Taking advantage of the chaos, bands of slave traders roam the countryside, wreaking havoc on the population. A young boy named Tien is saved from the traders by a friendly pirate named Cher Nung. Taking Tien under his wing, Cher Nung begins training him in martial arts and he becomes an exceptional warrior. As Tien matures into manhood, he decides to leave Cher Nung's side and take his revenge on the slave traders.

The above plot description simplifies things a bit. The characters, especially that of Tien, have more depth to them than the ones presented in Jaa's previous films. In a way, this is good, since this allows the audience to connect on a deeper level than something like Tom Yum Goong, where Jaa's character was fairly one-dimensional. But, on the other hand, the deeper story ends up leaving the audience feeling a bit cheated in a way, since both the second and third installments of Ong Bak were supposedly intentioned as one film, ala Kill Bill. Ong Bak 2's abrupt ending leaves more open questions and unresloved plot threads than giving any true resolution. One would think that everything will be wrapped up with Ong Bak 3, but for now the story feels more than a bit incomplete.

Despite the qualms with the story-telling, no one can really deny how solid Ong Bak 2's fight scenes are. Taking more of a hard, violent, and realistic take than Jaa's previous work, the fights here emphasize showcasing actual martial arts styles, rather than acrobatics. While some might be disappointed at the lack of more flashy moves, it is really fun seeing Jaa bust out a bunch of different styles. In particular, a sequence where Jaa employs the drunken boxing style is one of the finest scenes Jaa has produced. While the fight scenes can't quite elevate the level of Ong Bak 2 high enough so that the viewer can forgive the short-comings in the plot department, they are good enough that this entry is definitely recommended for martial arts fans.

RATING: 7.5