Ong Bak 2: The Beginning Review

A young boy in ancient Thailand sees his parents murdered, and left alone to fend for himself, is taken in by a gang of thieves. As the boy grows up to become a great warrior, he sets out to avenge his parents' murder upon the evil warlord responsible for their deaths.

As a fan of the original Ong Bak, and having read nothing in advance of seeing the sequel, I was initially taken aback by the fact that Ong Bak 2 has no connection to the first that I can see, other then the country it is set in and the Buddhist themes.

While the first Ong Bak gave the hero's quest a twist by adding a "fish out of water" element, Ong-Bak 2 plays like Gladiator in Indonesia, with themes of revenge and self-identification propelling the story. It's obvious Tony Jaa is trying to make an epic that will make him an international star, but the film has serious flaws that keep you from taking it too seriously.

The transitions from flashbacks, when Jaa's character is a young boy, to a later time frame are not handled well, which makes the plot a befuddled mess, even with subtitles. The lack of sympathetic characters, even Jaa's, doesn't allow the viewer to emotionally invest in the film, so when the plot's big revelation and confrontation comes at the end, it doesn't have the impact it should.

Since most folks watching the film are doing so only to see some great fighting, the plot won't be such a big deal, but with the filmmakers taking it so seriously, you won't be able to enjoy the mayhem as much as you did in the first film. However, when the fights do come along, they are impressive and will please most Jaa fans who don't come in with high expectations. You'll basically just need to sit back and enjoy the ride.

"The Harrison Ford / Blade Runner Honorary Award" goes to the galactically stupid voice-over that ends the film - I won't give away the ending, but I wondered why something is told to us instead of it being shown. Did they run out of film or something?

"The Timex Award" goes to Tony Jaa, whose character of Tien takes a beating and keeps on ticking for the full 90 minutes of the film.

"The Best Actor Award" goes to the elephant that becomes a prop during a fight near the film's climax. I don't know if I should email the Academy or PETA.

"The Nobel Peace Prize" should go to anyone who can figure out how this film connects in any way to the original, besides the use of Tony Jaa.

While the fight choreography is excellent and the film has a bit of an epic feel, even fans of Tony Jaa will find themselves under whelmed. It's worth a night from Redbox, but that's about it. (Review by Victor Medina)





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