Ong Bak 2
I rule you!

Theatrical Release Date: 10/30/2009
Directors: Tony Jaa & Panna Rittikrai
Cast: Tony Jaa, Sorapong Chatree, Sarunyu Wongkrachang, Nirut Sirjanya, Santisuk Promsiri, Primorata Dejudom

Tony Jaa can do a lot of things. He certainly can kick a lot of ass but apparently he can add producer, co-writer (story) and co-director to his acting and fight choreography credits as well now with the release of “Ong Bak 2″. However, what he can’t do is convince me this is an actual sequel (though he doesn’t try from interviews I’ve read). For fans of the original “Ong Bak”, the only real element of this supposed sequel that links the films is Jaa himself. And that’s okay, because that’s all fans should be wanting or expecting.

I doubt many people will try to legitimately say I’m wrong in labeling the original “Ong Bak” and “The Protector” as sub-standard films. Neither the acting, writing or directing of any of them are thought of as noteworthy. However, one doesn’t see these films expecting the possibility of great cinema. We’re there to see, in my mind, this generation’s greatest martial artist beat up as many bad guys as you can within an hour and a half.

Jaa’s fight choreography and ability are tremendous and a breath of fresh air into what has become a saturated and copycat film environment (as cool as it is on-screen, after “The Matrix” is seems that the only fight choreographer Hollywood would use was Yuen Woo-ping). Whether he’s driving his knee into someone’s face, dropping an elbow on their head of gracefully dodging their attack, watching Jaa’s artistry is spectacular enough to make all the other elements of the film irrelevant (I don’t even know if my heart could take it should he be in a well-written and directed movie).

This time around, rather than be on a quest to recover a stolen item, which was sort of his M.O., Jaa plays an orphan (once his parents are murdered by the country’s new dictator) who takes up with a band of thieves. They teach him to fight and his natural inclinations towards those arts elevates him to be the best. Along the way, he fights normal henchmen, skilled henchmen and even a few supernatural/paranormal types (which are handled well in a creepy style). He fights them one on one, he fights them in groups and he even manages to use an elephant as a sort of muay thai jungle gym.

To that end, all of the fighting and stunt work was top notch. If this were to be done in the states, I have a feeling the insurance and health care costs would be half the budget. Each movement is precise and sharp, and like with Jaa’s other films, it’s basically impossible not to audibly marvel at some of the action (though there wasn’t a moment here like in “The Protector” where one might hear someone cry out “Invest in casts!” as another reviewer on this site did).

Other than the fighting, there’s really not much point in elaborating on any of the film’s other elements. Those simply don’t matter. You’re either going to see this because you want to see Jaa bash in skulls or you’re going to skip it because martial arts films aren’t your bag. I’m going to award “Ong Bak 2″ a 3 out of 5 because it does what I expected it to do. I’ll go to any Tony Jaa film, as long as it’s about him fighting, and if I happen to get a good script or direction to go with it, that’s just icing on the cake.