Epic martial-arts fighting — and little else
By Cary Darling
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
The climactic scene in "Ong Bak 2: The Beginning," a fierce battle between the put-upon Tien (played by actor/director Tony Jaa) and an ever-expanding hive of willing yet incompetent ninjas, is such a brutal and beautiful explosion of choreography and kung-fu craziness that it qualifies as one of the best martial-arts fight scenes ever.
Apparently, Jaa and co-director/writer Panna Rittikrai thought so, too, because they really didn't come up with much of a movie to go with it. A sequel in name only to "Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior," the global hit from a few years back that made Jaa a star among action-film enthusiasts, "Ong Bak 2" is really just an excuse for several jaw-dropping set pieces that show off Jaa's killin' skills.
Set in medieval Thailand, when warring clans fought for power, the film attempts to tell the story of Tien, a man who is torn from his family, raised to be a warrior, and then sets out for revenge. But it's all so muddled, convoluted and needlessly self-important, it's hard to tell what's going on and why.
But when push comes to shove, which it does early and often in "Ong Bak 2," none of that really matters. It's all about the fighting, which is the only thing Jaa fans care about anyway. (Although some might also be enthralled by the handsome cinematography.) And the beatdowns — sometimes involving elephants who just happen to be friends of Tien's — are epic.
Still, if there's an "Ong Bak 3," Jaa might take a cue from the year's other knockout kung fu film, "Chocolate" (incidentally, directed by original "Ong-Bak" director Prachya Pinkaew), and come up with a simple yet engaging story viewers might actually care about. Until then, get ready to rumble.