Ong Bak 3 picks up where Ong Bak 2 had left off. Tien is captured and almost beaten to death before he is saved and brought back to the Kana Khone villagers. There he is taught meditation ... See full summary »
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Ong Bak 3 picks up where Ong Bak 2 had left off. Tien is captured and almost beaten to death before he is saved and brought back to the Kana Khone villagers. There he is taught meditation and how to deal with his Karma, but very soon his arch rival returns challenging Tien for a final duel. Written by
Nothing less- or more- than the perfect excuse to see Tony Jaa show off his breathtaking fight moves
With this third installment in the "Ong Bak" franchise, Tony Jaa has finally given closure and clarity to "Ong Bak 2", an in-name only sequel to the original and much superior first chapter. That sequel, which was in fact a prequel set in 15th century Thailand compared to its contemporary predecessor, saw Tony Jaa as the orphaned son Tien of a noble family whose parents were killed by the power-hungry Lord Rajasena. Brought up by a group of warriors, Tien grows up to become a fearsome fighting machine himself- which is really an excuse for Tony Jaa to show off his bone-crunching moves.
"Ong Bak 2" ended on a cliffhanger, with Tien overwhelmed by the sheer number of Rajasena?s soldiers and taken away to be tortured to death. Then came the enigmatic voice-over suggesting that Tien may find a way to cheat death once again and the final shot of him standing in front of a scarred Golden Buddha statue. Picking right up after the events of "Ong Bak 2", this installment begins with an unpleasant sequence where Tien is beaten and brutalized in ways apparently too disconcerting even for an NC16 rating (yes, it's cut). His bones completely broken, Tien is saved from execution by a palace order- though it?s not explained why- and subsequently nursed to health by a group of villagers.
There he begins a journey of meditation- one of both physical and spiritual healing- that draws heavily on Buddhist teachings of forgiveness versus revenge, aided by his mentor Phra Bua (played by veteran Thai actor Nirut Sirijanya) and his childhood sweetheart Pim (played by Primrata Det-Udom). Meanwhile, Rajasena is haunted by a curse set upon him by the Crow Demon (Dan Chupong), the mysterious agile fighter whom Tien had fought with briefly in "Ong Bak 2", who wants the throne for himself. His body covered with tattoos, the Crow Demon soon uses his supernatural powers to enslave the villagers, setting the stage for an epic confrontation with Tien.
True enough, like "Ong Bak 2", audiences will be treated to a no-holds-barred vicious climax with plenty of jaw-breaking, head-cracking and knee-crunching action. Like its predecessor too, Tony Jaa will go up against dozens of enemy warriors in the midst of an elephant herd. And once again, like its predecessor, you can be sure that you'll be left in awe at Tony Jaa's physical agility and martial arts prowess- which was the very reason his name was mentioned among the greats Jet Li and Jackie Chan when "Ong Bak" was first released.
Here, Tony Jaa also showcases the 'nattayuth' fighting technique, a combination of traditional khon dancing with mixed martial arts, as his character Tien goes up against the Crow Demon. That showdown is simply poetry in motion- Jaa's 'nattayuth' moves equally graceful and brutal- made even more impressive when one starts to see the parallel between that and the dancing movements Tien had earlier learnt from Pim.
But credit must also go to his co-star Dan Chupong, who proves his mettle as Jaa?s equal in not just the climax but in almost every fight sequence that he appears in. In fact, while Tien is off meditating, Dan Chupong gets to steal the show in a thrilling fight against Rajasena's men as his Crow Demon character goes about smashing their skulls through thick brick walls. (There is certainly a real-life parallel to be drawn here, as Tony Jaa's decision to join the monkhood in May shortly after this film was released can only mean that Dan Chupong may steal his thunder as Thailand's most famous action star.) Of course, there is a good reason for Tien's (or Tony Jaa's) departure, for "Ong Bak 3" tries- though rather clumsily- to be a film about the redemptive potential of forgiveness. Whereas Jaa's Tien was driven by revenge in "Ong Bak 2", here he is driven by something different, something less destructive and ultimately liberating.
In the hands of more experienced directors, this noble ambition might have translated better to the big screen- but co-directors Tony Jaa and Jaa's mentor Panna Pittikrai (who are also action choreographers and action directors in the film) are unfortunately out of their league here. And that is where "Ong Bak 3" falters, not just for taking itself too seriously, but for doing so too maladroitly. Indeed, it's especially telling when one of the best things about the film is the levity that Phettai Wongkumlao's village idiot Mhen brings, especially during Tien's fight when he first emerges from his self-imposed solitude.
Much has been said about the production troubles surrounding "Ong Bak 2" and "Ong Bak 3"- Tony Jaa disappearing from the set for two whole months during filming for "Ong Bak 2"; subsequent studio pressure leading to the rushed production of "Ong Bak 2" and the decision to make this film "Ong Bak 3" partly to complete the story and partly to recoup costs. For all its travails, "Ong Bak 3" isn't the unnecessary three-quel it may seem, bringing a befitting conclusion to the story that Tony Jaa began in "Ong Bak 2" and left off so abruptly. At the very least, it's an excuse to watch Tony Jaa fight on screen again and probably for the last time in a long while. That alone is worth the price of admission.
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