Ong Bak 2: The Beginning Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai

Ong Bak 2: The Beginning Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai
Martial arts fans have been salivating for this Ong Bak follow-up since the original introduced the human special effect that is Tony Jaa to our shores. Unfairly bereft of any serious marketing or theatrical release, Ong Bak 2 improves upon its predecessor in every conceivable way. Jaa himself takes the reins as director, with an assist from writer Panna Rittikrai. Rittikrai's experience aids Jaa's ambition of producing the most lavish martial arts action movie ever; it's shocking just how good Ong Bak 2 looks and flows. However, don't mistake this praise as a suggestion that it's approaching a Crouching Tiger class of filmmaking. Jaa has made a pure action feature. In fact, he's made quite possibly the purest put on screen. Although still standard genre stuff, the story holds more emotional heft than the average fare. Jaa plays Tien, a descendent of royalty whose parents were brutally murdered, forcing him to live on the streets as a child, narrowly escaping the slave trade when he's taken in by a band of thieves. The eclectic mix of backgrounds within the thieves' camp, coupled with his early training in Khon, a sophisticated form of dance, leads Tien to become a sort of jazz-fusion warrior of lethal fighting styles. Expect the usual dosages of training sequences, unrequited love and revenge, providing context to the carnage, but all that's beside the point: Tony Jaa runs across a heard of stampeding fucking elephants! The mind nearly buckles under the weight of the knowledge that there is no wirework and no special effects beyond blood (some of which is also real) anywhere in this film. Never have action sequences been more clearly shot to give full credit of the awe they inspire directly to the performers. Every action director on the planet should be taking notes on how to shoot action this smoothly, with such visceral impact (thank you, sound effects and tastefully metered slow motion). A second disc of special features includes a three-part "Making Of" that gets a little awkward and cheesy by trying to sell the movie you've just seen, but the behind-the-scenes portions (of which there are extensive additional sub-categories of) are totally worthwhile. All the interviews are poorly translated but still interesting. Like a sample of new crack to a junkie, a short preview of Ong Bak 3, showcasing even more insane fight scenes, is included. It's unlikely the follow-up will be able to maintain the uncommonly dark (some may complain, unfinished) tone of this prequel's ending, but again, whatever. Tony Jaa's going to do more fucked up acrobatics off of elephants, and you will love it. (E1)