Who’s In It: Tony Jaa, Sorapong Chatree, Sarunyu Wongkrachang, Nirut Sirichanya, Primorata Dejudom, a bunch of elephants
The Basics: In ancient Thailand, a young prince escapes the massacre of his family and falls in with a band of warrior thieves. When he comes of age, Tien (Tony Jaa) masters an array of martial arts and becomes the heir to his outlaw gang -- but first, he must exact revenge on the evil warlord who murdered his people. Complications, plenty of bloody swordfights, and a bizarre Tony Jaa bird-dance ensue.
What’s The Deal: Ong Bak 2 is surprisingly gorgeous and makes the most of its exotic Thai locations, but its soapy plot leaves something to be desired. Showcasing Jaa’s formidable physical talents, the film doesn’t waste too much time on silly exposition or time-sucking character development – it cuts right to the horse chases, the sword fights, the child wrestling a crocodile, the aforementioned bird-dance (which Jaa performs to sneak into a private party) and the inevitable Last Act Twist. Jaa even has a tasty love interest in the bland but doe-eyed dancer Pim (Primorata Dejudom), although he, and we, have bigger priorities: namely, more fighting! And boy, what a bloody good time Tony Jaa has slicing and dicing his way through Thailand’s muddiest of mud pits.
News Flash! It’s Not A Sequel/Prequel: To be clear, this is not a direct prequel to the far superior Ong Bak. It’s more of a historical epic that happens to take place in Thailand, features a lot of fighting, and stars Tony Jaa. In other words, it’s a total cash-in. But hey, who cares? It’s a Tony Jaa movie!
Cut To The Chase. How Are The Fights? This movie exists solely to give Jaa the chance to kick a ton of ass, and to that end it doesn’t disappoint. Whereas Ong Bak’s raison d’etre was to show the nimble Jaa fist-fighting in modern-day Bangkok, the prime directive here is to watch Jaa slash his way through necks left and right with a bloodthirsty gleam in his eye. The 15th century Thai equivalent of grief management seems to be a program of cracking heads on knees, fists, sticks, swords, nunchaku, a piece of string, and elephants, which Jaa does with panache, even facing off against hundreds of oncoming enemies in one brutal sequence. The sword fights get repetitive, but you have to applaud the guy’s effort.
Look For Jaa’s Drunken Master And The Thai Richard Kiel: Jaa’s best fight comes when he infiltrates a slave market to do battle, a la Drunken Master, with a ginormous thug who bears an eerie resemblance to Jaws from Moonraker. Fighting entirely while laying on the ground, Jaa is like an ancient Thai b-boy; it’s the best break-dance fight scene you’ll see all year, although we really haven’t had nearly enough break-dance fight scenes in this year’s crop of movies. Get on it, Hollywood!