Short version: Ong Bak 2: The Beginning isn’t for everyone, but for action junkies, it provides exactly what you’d expect.
Screen Rant’s Ross Miller reviews Ong Bak 2
The first Ong Bak (subtitled Muay Thai Warrior) I found to be quite entertaining, with some seriously kick-ass fight sequences, consisting of some often jaw-dropping choreography and stunts. Unfortunately, there were also some not-so-great aspects, notably the poor acting and thin storyline. But overall there was enough there to make it worthwhile, and it was pretty much inevitable that another movie would follow.
It’s no surprise to find that Ong Bak 2, or Ong Bak 2: The Beginning, is practically more of the same, but it manages to get rid of (or at least better mask) the bad elements, while subsequently improving on the fight sequences (if you can believe it).
Ong Bak 2 is actually a prequel to Ong Bak, taking place in ancient Thailand as opposed to modern-day Thailand. However, what wasn’t entirely clear was how the sequel links to the first one, since it takes place centuries prior (unless Tony Jaa’s character is immortal, I can’t see how it’s the same guy in both – their names are different, for one thing). Confusion aside, the new (or old) setting is a nice change-up from what we saw in the first movie, perhaps even enhancing the awe-inspiring fighting in a strange way.
The plot follows Tien (Jaa), the son of a Lord murdered in Thailand in the late 15th century. After resisting ruthless slave traders and just moments from death, Tien is rescued by a renowned warrior who takes him under his wing and trains him in martial arts, including the heavy use of weapons. He eventually grows up and into “one of the most dangerous men alive.” Tien goes on to track down and exact vengeance on the men who enslaved him as a child, as well as getting revenge on the warlord who killed his father.
I think Ong Bak 2 is the type of movie you have to judge on the grounds of what it’s attempting to do, and if it achieved that goal or not. And I can say that it certainly does achieve its goals. The movie zips along at a fairly quick pace, linking one amazing fight scene to another, with only a few sags in the narrative here and there but nothing too detrimental to the film as a whole.
The fight scenes are often unbelievably well executed and will be impressive (I imagine) to even the most avid action movie goer. Thank the talents of star and director, Tony Jaa; he punched and kicked his way onto the cinematic radar with the first Ong Bak, defying gravity, kicking the asses of more bad guys than can possibly be counted, while bringing a fresh style to the martial arts genre. The fact that he had directorial control this time around definitely shows on-screen: the action scenes seem to flow a lot better than they did in the first film, not exactly entering into the realm of the believable (the more ridiculous, the better, I say!), but somehow feeling as such within the context of the film itself.
For instance, there’s a scene where Tien uses an elephant – which he’s managed to “tame” – when battling just one of the many bands of bad guys he runs into. He uses the elephant to spring off and swing on in order to pull off a special type of fly-kick, and even uses the elephant’s tusks to knock out his foes. Sounds a bit out there, right? Well in principle it is, but Jaa makes it work. Go figure.
As I said, even though you have to judge this type of film for what it’s trying to do, that still doesn’t stop some poorly handled aspects from somewhat weighing it down. The story feels fairly generic, or at least predictable – young boy’s father is killed, he gets taken in by a warrior, trains to be an amazing fighter, and goes out to avenge said father. The dialogue – the little there is of it – is very by-the-book (sometimes ultra-cheesy) and the acting (as far as I could tell since I don’t speak Thai) was sub-par at best.
But I imagine if you’re thinking about checking out Ong Bak 2, acting, script or story will be the furthest thing from your mind. Chances are you’re looking for more of the kick-ass fight sequences we saw in the first Ong Bak (as well as the similar The Protector) and I’m happy to say the film delivers on that in absolute spades.