Friday, October 23, 2009

Movie with Abe: Ong Bak 2

Ong Bak 2
Directed by Tony Jaa & Panna Rittikrai
Released October 23, 2009

Some movies aren’t about acting or dialogue or even story. Sometimes there are movies that can be classified not as drama or thriller but only as action. “Ong Bak 2” is one of those films. The follow-up to 2003’s “Ong Bak” doesn’t require a screening of the first film because this is essentially a prequel which chronicles martial arts master Tien’s training and total takedown of pretty much anyone who crosses his path. Keep in mind that the verb “chronicle” should be understood loosely since this movie disregards story and all sense in favor of one man with a lot of aggression fighting off a whole horde of enemies that just keep popping up for over an hour and a half.

“Ong Bak 2” sets itself hundreds of years in the past in order to best pursue a freewheeling cycle of events that continuously pit Tien, who seems capable of only one facial expression, against an endless lineup of warriors determined to cut him to pieces but ultimately felled by his masterful, unbeatable swordsmanship and deadly punches. It’s an entirely repetitive film that doesn’t seek to offer any more satisfying plot developments or character growth, and if that’s all that’s expected, so be it. What’s excruciatingly mind-numbing about it is the sheer predictability and even ease with which Tien takes down all of his foes, one after another. Some of his moves are just plain bizarre – rallying the help of a herd of elephants – while others become tired after he uses them to knock out the first dozen or so nameless souls who dare to go up against him in combat. It’s a cut-and-dry case of expectations and delivery, and expecting anything more than mindless kicking and punching just isn’t a smart idea when it comes to this film.

There’s something to be said for a movie that is able to successfully fill 100 minutes with nothing but martial arts. While it’s not for everyone, it’s certainly a carefully and impressively choreographed extended fight scene that showcases the abilities of Tony Jaa and close to a million extras. Jaa stepping behind the camera to not only star but also co-direct is probably a good move because he is very skilled at staging fight scenes, and while it becomes extraordinarily difficult to keep track of exactly which tribe is getting revenge on which other tribe, the martial arts make much more sense. At the very least, it’s intriguing to catch a glimpse at Thai cinema and what it has to offer. In this case, it’s a violent, mindless trip to ancient villages where conversation comes second to fist-to-fist combat, and there’s something entertaining about that. It’s probably much more enjoyable if expectations aren’t high in terms of cinematic value.


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