Movie: Ong-Bak 2
Ong-Bak 2 (OB2) is one of those rarest of movies: It’s a sequel — Well, prequel — that surpasses its predecessor in just about every respect.
2003’s Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior (OB1) is a contemporary action film about Ting (Tony Jaa), a trained fighter from the small village of Ban Nong Pradu, who is sent to Bangkok in search of the stolen head of the village’s Buddha statue (Ong-Bak). In Bangkok Ting meets up with Don (Wannakit Sirioput), who is also from the same village, however Don has become well and truly city-fied and rather than help Ting search out Ong-Bak, he attempts to use Ting’s fighting skills to make a quick buck.
OB1 is an enjoyable enough action film, but its greatest asset is Tony Jaa. Famously, many of the stunts seen in the first film were performed by Jaa, which was not a great stretch for him, given he previously worked as a stunt man. But while the majority of the fight scenes in Ong-Bak were just ok, it was the breathtaking, done without wires, parkour style, street chase scenes that made people sit up and take notice of this first movie.
Sadly, there aren’t too many comparable parkour style scenes in Ong-Bak 2. But that’s the only thing that Ong-Bak has over its prequel.
Tony Jaa returns as lead actor in OB2, takes over as director, and also has a writing credit. Wannakit Sirioput also returns, albeit for a very small, almost cameo appearance. These are the only two connections to the previous film that are readily apparent. There is talk that Ong-Bak 3 makes more of a connection between the two films and ties the trilogy together. But a teaser shot at the very end of OB2 seemed to make enough of a link to keep anyone, desperate for a connection, happy. That said, you certainly don’t need to have seen the first movie to understand what’s going on in OB2.
Set in ancient Thailand, Ong-Bak 2 leaves the viewer questioning the origin of its lead character Tien (Jaa) for a large portion of the film. As a young boy Tien discovers that he is today’s special in a fairly inhospitable slave market… you know, as opposed to those warm and welcoming slave markets! Having no interest in commerce Tien finds himself being used as entertainment after he smacks Asia’s answer to Richard Kiel in the head with a rock. We’re not talking about the good kind of entertainment either! No, Tien ends up up-close and personal with a crocodile. Fortunately for the boy, it is then that a group of bandits decide to raid the market.
Impressed by his ability to withstand attack from prehistoric reptiles and men who look like classic bond villains, Churning (Sorapong Chatree), the bandit’s leader, helps Tien and offers him a place with his people. He also offers to help Tien master all forms of martial art… cue training montage!
Visually, Ong-Bak 2 is beautiful! It looks more like a knife fight broke out during the filming of Baraka than your traditional Asian action movie. When Tony Jaa tires of cleaning people’s dials with nunchucks he certainly has a career ahead of him behind the camera, but who am I kidding, why would he ever tire of that?
Some of the action sequences, like in the first movie — and the plot of this one — are a little hit and miss. Some of the extras/stunt-interns seem all too aware of the fight choreography, but during the film’s climax no-one holds back, and the action sucks you in completely: Even when the elephant joins in! This “no holds barred” approach is documented in the bonus, behind the scenes, footage where you see some of the actors actually injured during the making of the climatic sequence of the film… which I’ve titled “Ninja Dudes Akimbo”.