In 1431, the Kingdom of Ayutthayan conquers the territory of Sukhothai expanding their lands to the East. The noble Lord Siha Decho is betrayed by his Captain, Rajasena, and is murdered together with his wife. However their son Tien is saved by one loyal soldier and left alone in the woods...Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Technically brilliant action detracted from by poor plot and an overly serious tone that it doesn't justify
Normally I would open with a plot summary when I write a review – not always but a lot of the time. With Ong Bak 2 I'm not sure I can be bothered or even that I should be because the plot here is so thin and so uninvolving that it is hardly worth the text. Essentially a child is rescued by pirates and grows up to be a great fighter, robbing and killing as they do. However when memories are triggered of his past he sets out for revenge , bringing secrets out into the open. In fairness, in those last two sentences I have made it sound more interesting than it actually is because I have suggested there is a flow to the narrative whereas in actuality the film is two of three "stages" that just suddenly move between one and the other. It is remarkably basic and, in terms of plot, remarkably poor. It isn't helped either by the fact that the entire film has a very serious dark tone to it – making it almost a weighty revenge tragedy. Now, I have no problem with that in theory but the problem here is that it doesn't do anything to justify that tone, nor does it do much to make it fit.
It really needed the characters to be engaging and real for the audience to care but there are no characters to talk about. Amazingly even the main character of Tiang is poorly developed. A massive part of this is the small amount of dialogue in the film – indeed by the time you have read to the bottom of this review you will have read more words than are spoken in this film. Of course silent films could still make a plot a character so it is not the end of the world but it does hurt the film because with a weak plot and weak characters the lack of dialogue is even more telling. Fortunately the one saving grace of the film fills the vast majority of the running time – the action. Aside from the "sombre" moments between scenes there are plenty of great action sequences involving weapons of all types. They are impressive and quite exciting at times and the only rider I would put on that is that they are not as much "fun" as the action has been in some of Jaa's other films. That said, it is worth seeing the film for the action alone – which, when you think about it, is just as well.
In terms of Jaa himself one really has to wonder what he is doing with his career because if films are to be his thing moving forward, then why does he appear to be going backwards in all of the aspects this involves excepting the action? In his previous films I have noted he is not very comfortable with lines and that any comic moment escapes him. Here it feels like those working with him have just given up totally and have allowed him to do little other than fight – he barely has a line in the film and any "plot/character development" stuff is done by the child playing his character while Jaa himself looks into a fire in a "remembering" pose. It is weird but it is part of the reason the film doesn't engage as much as I had hoped – because the main character is little other than a stunt man, albeit a very good stunt man. I'm sure fans will hate me for that and not see my point but the thing is, if he is going to continue making films in Thailand (far less films that can perform abroad) then he needs more than the impressive martial arts skills he has. He needs good vehicles, he needs to work on his many weaknesses as an actor and he needs to have a supporting cast that can fill the gaps that he cannot (such as in Ong Bak). At the moment Ong Bak 2 just looks like they are happy to film him fighting and leave it at that, which I think is a real shame because this only makes for great action – not a great film. Although he did a good job directing the film in some regards, this is probably a mistake because he cannot do anything about his own failings as a performer.
Ong Bak 2 is a technically brilliant martial arts film with plenty for the weapons fan to love. However as a film it is really quite poor thanks to a thin plot, little dialogue and even less in the way of characters. The action makes it worth seeing but even fans will be hoping for a bit of a better product built around this. I continue to pay out to import Jaa's films because he is great at what he does but I hope that he can improve in other areas to make better total films rather than this type of thing again.
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